Performing Arts: Dance
March 3, 2014
Typically I’m weary of dance performances that are installation or theater based. More often than not they are over wrought with clichés and everything but actual dance movement. As I got off the Graham stop on the L in Brooklyn Friday night my suspicions grew as I walked briskly to what is formerly known as the Greenpoint Hospital. Upon arrival I entered through a side entrance, down two sets of stairs and finally into the lobby of 4Chambers a “sensorial journey into the human heart,” presented by Jody Oberfelder projects.

The intimate performance instillation is intended for an audience of 12. My group at the second performance was 7, 3 couples and myself. We waited for the show to start in a small room, with various heart paraphernalia, including books and portraits to engage us. At 8:30, Oberfelder enters and sits with us, standing up at one point as the lights dimmed to introduce the show and send us on our way.

I won’t ruin the experience and give too much away, but essentially 6 dancers serve as “docents” that lead you through the instillation one room at a time. Luckily for my group, we each had our own docent, except for two people who shared one.

I was struck by how much the closeness and intimacy that I experience on a regular basis, fueled my visceral and emotional response to what was happening before me. Not only are you seeing the performers dancing in unison beside and in front of you, but also at times you are “dancing” with them.

Each audience member will have a different experience. And unfortunately I was so caught up in mine, that I failed to observe and take note of what others were experiencing. I developed trust quickly with my docent, and when he left me at times, I was happy to see him return later. It was sensual: the dancing, the touch, the eye contact. No response is right or wrong Oberfelder tells us in the beginning.

The idea that dance has enough weight to carry itself into another medium such as interactive theatre is important to note. The eerie setting of the hospital, the dancers who moved with gusto and maintained intense focus, and the tight but intricate choreography all helped in making 4Chambers a positive experience.

Shows like Sleep No More are already doing work like this, and this genre needs to continue to be developed. Value exists in audience members who can appreciate dance not only from a plush seat, but also inches away from the action. It's invigorating to watch dance give audiences new reasons to appreciate the craft. Jody Oberfelder you’ve debunked my fears…for now. My heart beats red with appreciation.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Bailey Moon

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