To spark discussion, the Walker invites Twin Cities artists and critics to write reviews of our performances. The ongoing Re:View series shares a diverse array of independent voices and opinions; it doesn’t reflect the views or opinions of the Walker or its curators. Here, dance artist Penelope Freeh shares her perspective on last night’s performance of The Dog Days Are Over by Jan Martens.
The eight performers of The Dog Days Are Over by Jan Martens don socks and sneakers mid-stage. Clad in workout gear circa 1980, they form a line, shoulder to shoulder, and begin to bounce, then jump. They are in unison and sort of heroic. Formations begin to unfold: diagonals, clumps, and circles form and re-form. They trade places, overtaking one another in planned maneuvers; one juts forward while another retreats. Occasionally a performer verbally confirms a count. Otherwise there is no sound save for their sneakery squeaks.
About 15 minutes in, there is a stride step, a legs spread one-two, then return to the two-footed hop/jog. This happens again some minutes later and both times it is a refreshing jolt, like seltzer nearing the face to be sipped, still effervescing, refreshing and welcome.
Gradually more vocabulary emerges while still maintaining the unison rule. From here individual variations occur, STILL maintaining the rhythm if not now the exact steps. Tempos shift and change, some steps are heavier than others, deliberately so, every twelve counts. That changes, too.
At about the halfway point music gradually becomes discernable, emerging like a sunrise, with slowness and beauty. The lights fade, shrouding the performers into silhouette. The music’s tempo is one thing while the performers’ is another. This layering is magnificent, borrowing a page from Cunningham and Cage.
In this moment something bigger then the sum of the parts happens. The willingness of the choreographer to place the dance into a retreating posture by welcoming in the musical element in this way feels like an act of generosity, a sharing, a shedding, that ultimately frames the dance, wringing out the virtuosity even more. The dance is set in relief by this musical moment coupled with the dimness. Those sneakers can still be discerned underneath it all, and I am reassured.
While there is poetry there is also the technical manual element, the part of the experience that just must be gotten through. This must be said. Sometimes it is work to watch: guilty work, as the performers are working their asses off.
But just like getting through that technical manual and building, say, a coat rack, there it is, that coat rack! Now you have it to hang your hat on.
The Dog Days Are Over must be overcome, in a way. And along the way, if you’ve had the right kind of day or are in the right frame of mind, it may just hit you at the level of transcendence, an experience to be savored for its endurance. The performers do the heavy lifting here. Can we ever bear witness hard enough to merit it?