“Becky, Jodi and John”
Created and performed by Becky Hilton, Jodi Melnick and John Jasperse
Choreography and direction by John Jasperse
Dance Theater Workshop
New York, NY
April 7, 2007

by Susan Reiter
copyright © 2007 by Susan Reiter

The supporting player in “Becky, Jodi and John” was a tiny motorized remote-control cart that whizzed onstage to deliver a laptop and other necessary props. Somehow, the charm and sweet poignant of the hour-long work managed to affect even this inanimate object, which seemed to acquire its own adorable personality. Named after its three performers — who share the same age, 43, and a mutual long, rich history amid the New York dance scene — “Becky, Jodi and John” was prompted by their shared friendship and an interest in examining the realities of dancing at their “advanced” age.

Early on, when Hilton — a robust, warm Australian dancer who was a mainstay in Stephen Petronio’s company and is now based in Melbourne — read, from that laptop, Melnick’s list of what she can’t or doesn’t do anymore in terms of movement, and her daunting list of injuries and limitations, Melnick was standing off to the side, flinching slightly, it seemed. Her infinitesimal movement reactions became an extended solo in which one could not care less that, as her e-mail stated, “I don’t travel through space quickly.” She may not have traversed a lot of ground, but her refined shifting of weight and supple, understated movements, and the calm intelligence and intense focus, had their own virtuosity.

The piece celebrates, with disarming casualness underlain by formal rigor, the performers’ friendship and, but implication, their ongoing fascination with movement and its range of possibilities. We sense throughout the shared camaraderie underlying the project, and the welcome lack of self-seriousness. Their simple tops helpfully, perhaps a bit mockingly, have their names on the back.

When the trio abruptly halted the proceedings, seated themselves in folding chairs downstage and asked for questions from the audience (who knows how many post-performance talk-backs they’ve accumulated over the years between them), they delivered thoughtful, earnest responses completely disconnected to whatever question had actually been asked.

After the piece opened with a screen on which text helpfully and conversationally introduced the concept of the piece (“We spent the last month in Australia making this dance. It was sunny there.”) and explained that Chrysa Parkinson would have been part of the project but couldn’t participate since she was in Belgium, the three performers began to appear from within a trough that had been created upstage and ran the full width of the stage. Splayed limbs and oddly angled bodies began to emerge, as though they were arising from some unknown place.

As they twisted and shifted their weight in oddly skewed ways, as though not fully committing to emerging form their sunken space, Parkinson, who ended up as a lively participant in the work via video, appeared as a talking head on a small, floor-level screen, speaking of “irrelevance.” Her subsequent appearances were interspersed throughout the hour as we heard/saw her half of an ongoing conversation carried on via internet video hook-up, serving as a commentator and sounding board.

The directness and honesty of the shared movement passages amongst the trio made “Becky, Jodi and John” a touching, insightful look at the openness and mutual trust acquired over time. After Jasperse, looking a bit like a naughty kid, made a nude entrance carrying a tall stack of cardboard bricks and methodically placed them on the floor downstage, he and Melnick (who was fully clothed) eased into a duet that began with her eyes darting downward toward his groin in a way that drew laughter. But the sly mischievousness gave way to an eloquent, almost devastating examination of bodies losing control. With no warning, one of them would go limp and start to fall, and the other would offer well-timed support and prevent disaster. It might have seemed a game at first, but it became an assertion, or a promise: we all want the reassurance of knowing that of and when our bodies, however deft and alert they may seem now, betray us, someone will be there to keep us from falling.

After the little cart had handily appeared with blue briefs for Jasperse to put on, he joined the two women, who were expanding out into space with wheeling arms and slicing legs, in deceptively casual, soft-edged movement in which each was always ready to receive the weight of another. Their smooth, unhurried interactions made clear the heightened mutual awareness and instinctual alertness they shared.

Hahn Rowe performed his subtle, evocative but never intrusive score seated downstage right in front of a computer, enhancing the gentle quirkiness and understated emotions of the evening.

Volume 5, No. 15
April 16, 2007

copyright ©2007 by Susan Reiter

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