John Jasperse’s choreography encompasses a lot of elements, from mystery and humor to sensuality and surprise. All of these are present in his latest piece for the American Dance Festival, “Within Between.”
The hour-long work is a series of segments that sometimes evolve from one to the other and sometimes are complete breaks. Set to Jonathan Bepler’s ever-changing, layered score of voices, percussion, strummed strings and electronic buzzes, the widely varying sections cause the viewer to enter completely different worlds at each transformation.
The piece begins on a brightly lit stage where rests a metal pole the length of several dancers. Simon Courchel picks it up and extends it into the audience to run the end of it caressingly over the heads and shoulders of several people. Then Stuart Singer comes on and Courchel does the same to him. Next, they engage in a slow motion, precision balancing act with the pole between them, shifting it as they kneel, lie flat and stand. The beauty of it is mesmerizing.
After Burr Johnson and Maggie Cloud join them for further pole manipulations, they suddenly drop the pole and begin assuming pretty ballet poses as if in a class. But slowly the dancers’ expressions become anxious, the music turns ominous and the lighting becomes a shadowy orange. The dancers’ bodies become robotic and grotesque, the balletic movements suddenly horrific.
There are many more such changes of style and mood. One amusing segment has the dancers wiggling, shaking and bumping body parts, simultaneously silly and sexy. There’s also a section in which Courchel and Singer circle each other like wary storks, mimicking gestures and striking dominating poses. And there’s an amazing series of fast, slapstick entanglements among the four. Jasperse also allows the dancers to show off their physical prowess, from joyous leaping and jumping to miraculously maintaining their balance in awkwardly angled positions.
The piece is greatly enhanced by Lenore Doxsee’s colorful lighting and her co-design (with Jasperse) of visual elements, including the intriguing black-and-white striped costumes.
Although a few sections dwell too long on a single aspect, the piece is engaging for its multiple facets that keep the audience constantly adjusting its response.