JOHN JASPERSE'S "PRONE"

December 6-10 and 13-17
Tuesdays and Wednesdays 8pm
Thursdays-Saturdays 7pm and 9pm

Award-winning choreographer John Jasperse returns to The Kitchen with a new work for three dancers with a live score by Zeena Parkins. In Prone, Jasperse investigates the mechanics of perception, with the audience alternating between lying on the floor amid the dancers and sitting in chairs surrounding the space. Vibrations, shadows, obstructed views, and peripheral images combine to create an unexpected dialogue among sound, movement, sight, and site. Featuring performers Luciana Achugar, Levi Gonzalez, and Eleanor Hullihan.

Extremely Limited Seating $15

From the Dec. 5, 2005 New York Times

Up Close and Personal: Art at Eyelash’s-Length

By JOHN ROCKWELL

“Prone” is John Jasperse’s latest work, an elaborate 75 minutes of dance and scenic effects and perceptual alterations at the Kitchen. It’s a trip.

That’s because it recalls the 1960’s and 70’s, when we used to troop down to places like the Kitchen (in its Mercer Street and Broome Street incarnations) and lie on mattresses and engage in various outrÔø? art events, many involving nudity and eating and invitations to dream.

There’s no eating in “Prone,” only semi-nudity and no dreaming, unless you fall asleep. The title refers to the audience, not the dancers. The large, downstairs, black-box space at the Kitchen has been expensively reconfigured to accommodate rows upon rows of clear plastic air mattresses and attached tubing and lighting gear.

The original idea was apparently for the audience to lie prone throughout; the news release suggests that only the pregnant and infirm may avail themselves of seats around the perimeter. Now, the audience is asked to divide its time between lying and sitting. Those who choose to lie in the first half are given aromatic eyeshades halfway through, listen to odd sounds with heightened awareness and are then escorted by what could be called gentils organisateurs (as they call them at Club Med, another trip) from mattress to seat, with the prior sitter then led to the mattress.

Lying is more fun. That’s because it transforms one’s perspective and fulfills Mr. Jasperse’s stated intention of involving the audience directly into the dance. What looks mysterious and intense from the floor seems more prosaic from a seat.

The mysteries include the three dancers – Luciana Achugar, Levi Gonzalez and Eleanor Hullihan – in their curious costumes: gray shorts or brightly colored briefs or clear plastic miniskirts; see-through lace shirts or colored tops or gray hooded sweatshirts. They move among the mattresses, straddling them or cavorting in the spaces between them. Sometimes they interact directly with those lying or even sitting, staring deeply into their eyes or stretching and twisting across them. From the ground, the perspective is skewed: at one point, across two or three rows of bodies and mattresses, all I could see of the dancers was brightly illuminated hands and arms, wriggling.

All this is as much or more a scenic and theatrical event as pure dance; the actual movements don’t seem all that interesting. Mr. Jasperse does play to piquant effect with recurrent movement themes: clusters of the three with one lifted, or straddling in a row.

But as an overall environmental experience, “Prone” is more beguiling. Mr. Jasperse designed the whole production and the costumes and built the set (with help) and collaborated on the lighting with Joe Levasseur. There are reflective panels on the ceiling and draped lights hanging in a row. The motif of inflated plastic bags (in the second half a tumescent bag emerges, hissing, from each mattress at crotch level) is cute; there is a lot of humor here, despite the deadpan dancers. Zeena Parkins provides atmospheric music from her electronically extended harps, and fits right in visually.

Like most trips, this is a little inconclusive in the end, more sensation than meaning, more effect than substance. But the effects are amusing, sometimes evocative and nostalgic. ClichÔø? though it may seem to say so, “Prone” is a trip worth taking.

John Jasperse’s “Prone” continues through Dec. 17 at the Kitchen, 512 West 19th Street, Chelsea, (212) 255-5793, Extension 11, or http://www.thekitchen.org.


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About Jay Babcock

I am the co-founder and editor of Arthur Magazine (2002-2008, 2012-13) and curator of the three Arthur music festival events (Arthurfest, ArthurBall, and Arthur Nights) (2005-6). Prior to that I was a district office staffer for Congressman Henry A. Waxman, a DJ at Silver Lake pirate radio station KBLT, a copy editor at Larry Flynt Publications, an editor at Mean magazine, and a freelance journalist contributing work to LAWeekly, Mojo, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Vibe, Rap Pages and many other print and online outlets. An extended piece I wrote on Fela Kuti was selected for the Da Capo Best Music Writing 2000 anthology. In 2006, I was one of five Angelenos listed in the Music section of Los Angeles Magazine's annual "Power" issue. In 2007-8, I produced a blog called "Nature Trumps," about the L.A. River. Today, I live a peaceful life in the rural wilderness of Joshua Tree, California, where I am a partner in JTHomesteader.com with Stephanie Smith.

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