Review: In John Jasperse’s ‘Visiting, Death Temptations’

A body under a sheet of paper: That’s how children play when summoning ghosts. That’s also the way John JasperseThe latest dance of “Visitation” begins.

Unsurprisingly for a work created during a pandemic, “Visitation” is deadly in its mind. The stage at New York University’s Figure Skating Performing Arts Center, where the piece premiered this weekend, is supported by a translucent handwriting, and in its center is an opening, a triangular gate on the other side.

Before long, the body under the cloth (Doug LeCours) leaves, being replaced by Cynthia Koppe and Tim Bendernagel. Koppe, on the floor, posed languidly, arching off the ground in a hint of flight, tilting his head back. Bendernagel, standing, continued to lean against a side wall and did not touch it with his face.

It’s a fitting symbol for the whole dance, always approaching the edges artistically, leaning towards camp, kitsch, brimming with emotion, ecstatic. When LeCours returned, he slowly lifted his shirt to expose his belly. Is this an exposure of vulnerable flesh or is it a sequel? An image of illness or illegality? A posture of the suffering person or the lucky person? He pulled his hands through his hair seductively, but also stretched them in the air, as if communicating with a higher force.

Between the youthful appeal of these brilliant dancers (whom Jasperse considers a collaborator) and the choreography’s meticulous compositional ingenuity – full of symmetry and cross-section, controlled even as it pushes towards jumping and spinning – “Visiting” feels like caring its beauty with death. Perhaps with the death of beauty, or in the words of Wallace Stevens, with death being the mother of beauty.

The sound scene, by Hahn Rowe, charges the action with electrostatic explosions, industrial noise, accelerated reactions of falling objects, the jingle between broken glass and fire. But three times, these musical noises were changed by Wagner to orchestral music.

Central to no less than the prelude to “Tristan und Isolde,” a blend of sex and death. It comes with a spooky duet for LeCours and Bendernagel. At first, they barely touched each other: back of hand down to leg, arm through the gap made by the other arm. This builds into a loose, conjoined, and weird somersault – like a version of contact improvisation, where the goal is not to share the weight but to diffuse it. As Wagner swelled, they rolled on the ground, almost like lovers in a wave, from here to eternity.

At this point, Stan Pressner’s light, which normally glows white, turns purple. In the previous scene, Bendernagel and Koppe tie LeCours with ropes. He held the ropes in his mouth as they circled around him the way maypole dancers or people tie someone to be burned on a stake. After they leave, LeCours tries to move, and his limp dance, freer and freer as it loosens his ties, takes a different path, this time in the midst of slyness. and transcendent.

And it happens. For a voice that sounds like someone recounting a near-death experience, the bodies under the sheets return, now with light: more children’s games or psychic tricks. Rigging lifts a plate, front and back, dancers play with shadows, misshaped plates with added halos and penumbras.

The climax comes with more Wagners, as a duet becomes a trio. Their perpetual motion quality, Mobius range come together to fit and resist Wagner’s infinite rise and all the other associations of those sounds. As a séance, “Visitation” doesn’t exactly summon spirits. It jumps on the edge.

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