John Jasperse Company | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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John Jasperse Company


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In an interview on, New York-based choreographer John Jasperse posed an obvious question seldom asked: "We [dancers] are showing our bodies all the time--where's the boundary of it becoming pornographic?" So it's not surprising that the emotional heart of the 90-minute work Jasperse is showing here, Giant Empty, is a duet between two nude men. Though dancegoers are accustomed to seminudity, it's shocking to see all the naughty bits. But it's not pornographic. A nude male solo early in the piece evokes vulnerability: the dancer stands on one foot like a scared schoolboy, wringing and twirling his hands as if he were anxiously washing them, his movements so careful they might be sign language. The duet--in which the men touch almost continually--is occasionally erotic, sometimes funny, and always odd, as the dancers sit on each other or balance back-to-back or draw one foot up the other's butt crack. Nudity heightens the oddity, but eventually we don't notice genitals so much as we recognize the poor, bare, forked animals we are--and when one man abruptly walks away from the other, the sense of loss is palpable. Meditating on being naked and being clothed, Jasperse also includes a section in which a woman wraps herself in so many blankets, sweaters, and bits of fabric that she becomes a bulky ball. Performed by four dancers (Jasperse among them), Giant Empty features a brilliant set by Matthias Bringmann, dynamic lighting by Stan Pressner, and a supremely annoying score by Michael Floyd. I didn't care for the way the set and score sometimes diminish the dancers, though Jasperse may have intended such discomfort, making even our annoyance grist for his mill. Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E. Chicago, 312-397-4010. Through April 7: Friday-Saturday, 8 PM; Sunday, 7 PM. $18. Note: There will be a discussion after Friday's show and a meet-the-artists reception after Sunday's, and Jasperse will join a roundtable on dance and architecture Saturday at 5 PM.

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