becky, jodi and john

Not that I’ve seen much dance this year but come December, this will still be one of the highlights of the year. I really like watching showings, often more than the real work itself buried under the detritus of staging. To have John Jasperse explain the makeshift ledge at the back of the stage (in the theatre where it will be performed in a couple of weeks, it’s the cyclorama pit), that he will be wearing a portable smoke machine so he gently smolders, that a radio-controlled car will bring the props on and off, but for now he’ll just announce that, and call for when the video should start and stop, all this, and just a bare room plus tv and a couple of chairs … this nakedness of a performance can capture and transfix me.

Becky, Jodi and John should have had another title but Chrysa Parkinson, who only appears infrequently in a skype video call couldn’t swing the schedule, so John ended up as far from New York as possible where there is still some kind of contemporary dance. Chrysa says she wants to embrace shame, and do everything that makes her feel ashamed. Jodi says she won’t do any of that post-modern roll over the foot stuff, especially on her left leg in a long list of “don’ts” (she does). John gets told by a curator he is too formal, and wonders while standing naked in front of us, if she really meant, “too old”.

They all should have retired at least a decade ago, and certainly to hold aspirations to be making art for another thirty years … herein lies the heart of this piece. Four New York dancers who have known each other for nearly twenty years, who are obviously very dear friends, spread across the globe, and for a month together in Melbourne. We don’t see old dancers, even NDT3 is a novelty act in this context and maybe in Europe the average age for a dancer is mid-thirties, but here, to be over thirty and still wanting something that dancing can give, and – more pertinently as this is how worth is measured – to still be performing, is not so common, and makes conceiving dance a thorny proposition.

Almost ten years ago Becky, Phillip Adams, Lucy Guerin returned from New York to make dance here. Melbourne’s dance is hugely influenced by New York, as became readily apparent in the last few weeks when both John and Jodi taught class at Chunky Move. To see this trio perform together, is in part to see this, as it lives in their bodies. It’s also something like reading someone’s letters, or eavesdropping, it’s the life that surrounds this movement that is on display.

I really want to rave about this work, even though it’s unfinished, it was only a studio showing, there was no music. It is magic to watch them move together, to obviously enjoy being together and to know each other so well it is no longer three separate people. And yes they dance, and entangle themselves around each other, get a little slappy and breathe hard. And they take their clothes off. Well, Jodi doesn’t, she doesn’t like showing her arms. (And Becky has the superhero power of Disappointment).

What more can you do in the face an endlessly deadly climate that sees no value in the arts, and has scant interest in seeing artists develop over their entire lifetime than to make a work such as this. Becky Jodi and John is considered, poignant, beautiful and makes stars of all of them.

Becky, Jodi and John (working title)

Choreography: John Jasperse
Performers: Becky Hilton, John Jasperse and Jodi Melnick

Becky, Jodi and John (working title) is a new evening-length work for three dancers, choreographed by John Jasperse. The project will address the longevity of the performer. Dance, unlike most of the performing arts, places a strong emphasis on youth and has little work for seasoned performers once they enter into their forties and beyond. Jasperse and his peers will address through this project the issue of sustaining a performing career past forty.

Becky Hilton, Jodi Melnick and John Jasperse met, through dancing, almost twenty years ago. While their paths through life and dance have brought them to varied places, they remain friends and they all continue to be deeply connected to the form of dance. Becky, Jodi and John is born out of a proactive desire to momentarily reweave these paths back together; it is a poetic portrait of these individuals, a celebration of their varied senses of humor and their commitment to this form. Another friend and colleague, Tere O’Connor, once said, “People are like balsamic vinegar. They just get more like themselves as they age.” The work examines the inescapable constancy of self, and its paradoxical capacity to radically transform, through both aging and growth, as well as how this transformation of self is informed by the phenomenon of dancing. What does it mean to spend one’s life dedicated to creating experiences which disappear as soon as they are reified, but which aim to stain the consciousness of those who experience them, both in perceiving and in doing?

Becky, Jodi and John will premiere at Dance Theater Workshop, New York City, April 2-7, 2007.

The music for “Becky, Jodi and John” is commissioned by the American Music Center Live Music for Dance Program.

Becky Jodi and John was supported in part by The Harkness Foundation For Dance.