Thinking Through Dancing, Lavishly

same planet different world 15th anniversary @ victory gardens biograph theater, 3/18/12.

dance performance

Adam Guazza and Liz Jenkins of Sam Planet Different World dance company.

Dance that deconstructs itself always runs the risk of being too meta, too linguistic, too brainy. But this was not the case with Same Planet Different World‘s take last spring on Peter Carpenter’s Rituals of Abundance for Lean Times #5: Lavish Possession (2012). The spoken commentary on the dance was essential to the gestural language itself. The dancers explored in words and movement how the space opened up for creating art can sometimes afford its makers momentary distance from the sufferings of the world. But in creating this distance, it also makes them far more aware of that suffering.

Inquiring into the privilege of having the time to rehearse, explore, create, the dancers noted their awareness of being more fully in control of their bodies—and their thoughts about their bodies. Carpenter and the dancers treated this as a luxury on the surface, but the undercurrent of the piece was that while this experience of abundance, a kind of intellectual and spiritual abundance as well as an awareness of corporeal autonomy and control, at first felt like a privilege, it might prove in the end to be a right universally desired and deserved. When it came to controlling one’s own body, the questioning of lavish possession gave way to an insistence to it.

The dancers spoke and moved in paradoxes: they developed a “lavish phrase” that was in fact rather simple; they announced “this won’t happen again,” then repeated a gesture, they mused over their newfound abundance, but connected it to the degradations of others. The body of one person was connected to another: someone walking was matched by someone crawling; someone leaping was matched by someone stumbling; someone free to self-reflection was met by a silent other.

The freedom to contradict oneself in these ways was a sign of liberty, of claiming rights rather than receiving them as gifts, or better said of mapping out a new relationship between claims and gifts, demands and wondrous receipts.

It was also a recognition of the sin and suffering that sustains luxurious possibilities. The performance was not an expression of decadence so much as a critical inquiry into the bounty of expressive possibilities when one thinks through dancing.

Bookended by a first dance, The Drift League, that was balletic, quick, buglike, formalistic, icy, and abstract and the final two pieces, After Many Years and IT is What it IS,  which were narrative, gooey, burlesque, smoky, hazy, sexual, wet,  Rituals of Abundance for Lean Times #5: Lavish Possession was at once contemplative and sensual, meta and in the moment, bodily and mindful—it was an absorbing profusion of streamlined, eloquent awareness.

*A shout out to Time Out Chicago dance critic Zachary Wittenburg, who was on much the same interpretive wavelength about this performance.

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