Make Art Not War: John Jasperse at BAM

John Jasperse Company in Misuse Liable to Prosecution
Press Photo, photographer unknown

John Jasperse inspires me to stay in dance. He continues to make work that is thoughtful, heartfelt, and fully physical. I saw his new piece, Misuse Liable to Prosecution, at BAM and felt like running down the aisle to hug him at the end.

The stage at the Harvey Theater is filled with a delicate mobile of suspended clear plastic hangers. With this incandescent web in the background, Jasperse comes downstage in funky found object clothes. He talks to us through a makeshift microphone made out of an orange street cone.

He shares statistics about the money it takes to produce a performance, the money that dancers and choreographers make, or don’t, and the way that they use that money, or don’t. He shares the pitiful amount of money that this country sets aside for the National Endowment for the Arts each year. And he shares the larger amount of money that this country uses for war every day.

While I reel from these statistics, bizarre, beautiful dancers with dust mops strapped to their heads begin to float across the stage.

While addressing economic realities of the dance world by using only found, stolen or donated objects, Misuse poignantly looks at ecological and political realities too. The dancers create entire worlds out of found objects, make use of what already exists in abundance. They find ways to connect in the midst of chaos. They clean up after themselves.

These dancers (Michelle Boule, Levi Gonzalez, Eleanor Hullihan and Kayvon Pourazar, sometimes joined by Jasperse himself) are unparalleled. They inhabit their bodies with an honesty and beauty that perfectly serves the piece. They have the technique to do anything and yet are completely unhindered by the affected style that sometimes comes with technique.

In Misuse, they move in circles completely off-balance, they ram into an air mattress, they delicately fold material and then slash it around. They fully access their own sense of weight, of agency. They encourage me, likewise, to find my own weight, to find the things that I care about, the many ways that I want to move through this world.

Throughout the evening, John Jasperse plays the role of a tender clown. He comes back downstage towards the end of the night and shares with us ideas for the end of the piece. One of these is to line the theater with explosives. To go out with a bang. We are lucky that those of us sitting in Brooklyn that night do not live lives surrounded by explosives.

Jasperse also shares an idea, “What if the whole room just got bigger. Like the whole space breathed in and held it….”

I hold my breath and I know people around me do too. We are a collection of people, together in a theater, sharing time and space.

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