“When John Jasperse makes a new work, it should be seen: end of story.” —New York Times
A linchpin of downtown New York dance and performance for more than 20 years, John Jasperse has developed a reputation for clever, intellectually rewarding works that leave audiences wowed. Truth, Revised Histories, Wishful Thinking, and Flat Out Lies, the newest piece from this American innovator and commissioned by the Walker Art Center, is seasoned with his distinct humor—and incorporates a childhood passion for magic tricks. Exploring the often fluid boundaries between fantasy and reality, it touches on dual traditions of live performance: the cultivation of illusion in the service of theatrical magic, and the shunning of it in search of an expression that is (or is perceived to be) honest, neutral, or demystified—“truthful.” Truth, Revised Histories, Wishful Thinking, and Flat Out Lies will be performed Thursday-Saturday, May 20–22, at 8 pm in the Walker’s McGuire Theater.
The performance features music by Hahn Rowe for string quartet and electronics, performed live by Rowe; Michelle Kinney, cello (Jelloslave/Mississippi Peace); Angelique Gaudette, viola (Flower and Flame); Nicholas Gaudette, bass (Orange Mighty Trio/Mississippi Peace); and Melissa Mathews, violin (Mississippi Peace/Ukrainian Village Band/Machinery Hill/Mandragora Tango).
Juxtaposing a host of dance, performance, and music styles, Truth bounces between the sincere and the ironic, and the result is a piece that feels a bit like a series of inflating balloons that either burst or deflate, over and over, in surprising ways. “The constant shifting in Truth asks people to look at their own aesthetic system of value,” says Jasperse, who performs the piece with four members of his company. “I’m trying to create a process for people to ask ‘Why do I like this?’ ‘Why am I not interested in that?’ ‘Why is that sexy, why is that stupid?’”
Beyond aesthetic considerations, Truth prompts an examination of our broader belief systems as well. As Jasperse puts it: “When do I as an audience member invest and say ‘I believe’—and why, in another moment, do I resist?” Philip Bither, McGuire Senior Curator for Performing Arts, says Jasperse is constantly questioning the art form of dance: “He’s brilliant in that he can make a work that speaks to universal philosophical questions and is at the same time highly entertaining.”
In developing Truth, Jasperse was struck by two quotes from legendary 19th-century American humorists: “Facts are stubborn, but statistics are more pliable” (Mark Twain) and “As scarce as truth is, the supply has always been in excess of the demand” (Josh Billings). He says he found that not only did these quips illuminate what happens when the fake transforms over to the real, or how one can slide into the other, but they also resonated with recent American culture and its strongly present themes of “truth and fiction and politics and sales.”
Jasperse graduated from Sarah Lawrence College in 1985, and then moved to New York City to live and work. He is Artistic Director/Choreographer of John Jasperse Company. In 1996, Jasperse created Thin Man Dance, Inc., a New York-based not-for-profit organization that supports the work of John Jasperse Company. His work has been presented by festivals and presenting organizations in the United States, Brazil, Chile, Israel, Japan, and throughout Europe.
Over recent years, Jasperse’s work has been awarded several prestigious awards both in the United States and abroad, including a New York Dance and Performance (“Bessie”) Award in 2001 in recognition of his body of choreographic work, the 1999 Scripps/ADF Primus-Tamaris Fellowship, the Doris Duke Award (1998), the 1997 Mouson Award by Künstlerhaus Mousonturm in Frankfurt, Germany; three prizes in the 1996 Rencontres Internationales Chorégraphiques de Bagnolet; and the Choreography Prize at the 3rd Suzanne Dellal International Dance Competition (1996) in Tel Aviv, Israel for Excessories.
Under the umbrella of the Company, Jasperse has created several works for other companies: See Through Knot, commissioned by the Baryshnikov Dance Foundation for White Oak’s Dance Project (2000); The Rest, commissioned by the Batsheva Dance Company in Tel Aviv, Israel (2000); à double face for the Lyon Opéra Ballet, France (March 2002); missed FIT for The Irish Modern Dance Theater, Dublin, Ireland (October 2002), and most recently Highline, as part of the Montana Suite Project for Headwaters Dance Company, Missoula, MT.
Jasperse’s choreographic work has been supported by fellowships from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts (2003), the Tides Foundation’s Lambent Fellowship in the Arts (2004–2007), John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation (1998), the National Endowment for the Arts (1992, 1994, 1995–1996) and the New York Foundation for the Arts (1988, 1994 and 2000). In addition to numerous commissions for new works, Jasperse’ work and the Company have also been supported by grants from Altria Group, Inc., American Music Center Live Music for Dance Program, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Arts International, Bossak/Heilbron Charitable Foundation, Creative Capital Foundation, Dance Magazine Foundation, Fonds d’Aide à la Production Chorégraphique du Conseil Général de Seine-Saint-Denis (France), Foundation for Contemporary Arts, Greenwall Foundation, The Harkness Foundation for Dance, Heathcote Art Foundation, Jerome Foundation, James E. Robison Foundation, Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust, Meet the Composer, the Multi-Arts Production Fund, National Endowment for the Arts, National Performance Network, New England Foundation for the Arts, New York Foundation for the Arts BUILD program, New York State Council on the Arts, the Lila Acheson Wallace Theater Fund, established in The New York Community Trust by the founders of The Reader’s Digest Association, and the Trust for Mutual Understanding.
Since 1991, Jasperse has regularly taught workshops and classes in the U.S., Europe, Mexico, and Brazil. As a dancer/performer, he began his career working with Lisa Kraus and Dancers (1985–1987), creating original roles in four works, and performing in the U.S. and Europe. In 1988 and 1989, he worked in Belgium with Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker’s Rosas, performing in _Ottone, Otton_e in major festivals and venues through Europe. From 1987 to 1993, he worked with Jennifer Monson, both performing in her work and collaborating on improvisation projects.
Tickets to John Jasperse’s Truth, Revised Histories, Wishful Thinking, and Flat Out Lies are: Thursday, $18 ($15 Walker members); Friday–Saturday, $25 ($21) and are available at walkerart.org/tickets or by calling 612.375.7600. The McGuire Theater’s Balcony Bar will be open at 7:30 pm and after the performances.
Movement Practice with John Jasperse
Saturday, May 22, 11 am–1 pm
This advanced-level dance class begins with a warm-up and moves into simple movements, improvisation scores, exercises, and sequences, gradually building in complexity.