Performing Arts: Dance
September 13, 2022
On Skirball’s bare stage, the walls glow with an eerie light as the audience settles in for the premiere of John Jasperse’s Visitations. The piece, taking its inspiration from “spiritualism, Mesmerism, the occult, hysteria, and the exoticization of myth” is a spacious 75 minutes danced by three exceptional performers: Tim Bendernagel, Cynthia Koppe, and Doug LeCours.

As the lights go down, the dancer’s heavy footfalls settle as a puddle of light pools upon a figure draped in pale fabric, their back arching and falling as their shroud rises—a classic silhouette, ghostly beneath a sheet. A sound forms in the darkness; huge cracks and rumbles ripple across the silken mantle as a single foot emerges, gently carrying the specter away into the dark wings.

Now Bendernagel and Koppe fill the stage with their spare movements, languidly rolling and contorting about the stage as the cacophony of Hahn Rowe’s soundscape intensifies until it is almost unbearable. The sound breaks when LeCours enters and begins to move through a series of preternatural gestures, grasping at his face and arms in the newfound silence.

Rob Gould’s set and Amy Page’s costuming complement each other very well, and the textures of their varied fabrics turn sublime under Stan Pressner’s stark lighting.

In a tender duet, LeCours steps away from the prone Bendernagel, whose outstretched hand traces the back of his calf, fingers splaying into the air. Nothing here is hidden, even as the dancers subtly enter and exit, the soft drift of a curtain at the back of the stage anticipates each arrival.

In its penultimate moments, the piece is defined by another piece of fabric that floats through the air drawn by a smart system of pulleys and weights. Landing between Koppe and the other two dancers whose shadows bloom like a Rorschach inkblot across the cloth, it wrinkles and bunches where her hands grasp at their invisible bodies as she executes a possession-esque backbend.

Met with a standing ovation, Jasperse’s new work is a triumph of singular focus, which the performers deliver with a trance-like intensity. The audience is transported into a space charged with the supernatural, a sensation that is not easily shaken.

Even after departing the theater into the bustle of a Manhatten evening, spirits still float in its periphery.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Noah Witke Mele

©2001 Eye and Dance and the Arts | All Rights Reserved