Dance review: John Jasperse’s flirty West Coast premiere at REDCAT


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Tapping into the zeitgeist of irony, sex and violence -- not to mention his inner magician -- dancer-choreographer-designer John Jasperse attracted the Twitterati to REDCAT on Wednesday with the West coast premiere of his “Truth, Revised Histories, Wishful Thinking, and Flat-out Lies.” Unwieldy title aside, the wacky, surreal two-act opus is an ideal showcase for New York-based John Jasperse Company. Hahn Rowe’s deliriously textured commissioned score, performed live by a string quartet from the International Contemporary Ensemble, also benefited from the composer manning the computer at the rear of the house.

And speaking of rears, “Truth” is rife with glorious butt-squeezes, rendered flirty and fabulous by Jasperse’s stellar crew -- Neal Beasley, Erin Cornell, Eleanor Hullihan and Kayvon Pourazar. These pas de derrieres, so to speak, are a recurring motif (think Tourette’s Syndrome of the buttocks), while ringleader Jasperse appears intermittently as sly commentator, wily prankster and shadowy figure of mystery.


Act 1 features a pink floral backdrop of sorts (designed by Jasperse and perhaps a nod to Fokine’s “Le Spectre de la Rose”) as the sequin-clad dancers slice the air with sweeping arms and elongated lunges. Evoking a twisted club atmosphere, albeit one swelling with strings (shades of Barry White’s Love Unlimited Orchestra), the two couples wooze about as if drunk, executing faux tangos in a mating dance ritual.

Jasperse, meanwhile, offers an amusing take on ballet positions (off-kilter pirouettes, feeble turn-out), beckoning us into a world also teetering between fantasy and reality. Clothes are shed, leaving the girls topless and guys in thongs, a tableau that brings to mind the WeHo “art” club, Voyeur. But the slinky, crawling bodies are gorgeous, Rowe’s score throbs and the libidinous mood morphs into a martial arts milieu, the dudes having donned dark unitards for a mock shoot-out.

The second act brings a change of pace -- and scenery: The floor, the walls and the performers are all in white, including the string quartet, now onstage, whose rallentando bowings and jaunty pizzicatos lend a mystical energy to the dances -- the jerk, the chicken, dry humping. Gatsbyesque garb (white minis for the women, jackets and -- gulp -- Bermuda shorts for the men), reeks of a besmirched purity, with Jasperse entering the fray, also in white, armed with a paper arrow. Pointing it at Cornell, the duo then engages in a slow-motion fight straight out of film noir, or, in this case, film blanche.

She smacks his face, he pulls her mop of curly hair, they kick, they push, they pull, with Jasperse finally getting Cornell in a serious chokehold. She replies with fistbumps to his eyes. The music stops. She slaps him -- for real.

Or is it? Putting white doilies on their heads, it’s oh, so Magritte-like, with the others, musicians included, following suit. Jasperse disappears and the four dancers bob around, making arm circles and arching their backs. Truth, as beauty, has been pierced, lies abound. As for the wishful thinking? That we connect: to one another, to art, to life.

-- Victoria Looseleaf

“Truth, Revised Histories, Wishful Thinking, and Flat-out Lies.” 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday. REDCAT, at Walt Disney Concert Hall, $20-$25. (213) 237-2800.