John Jasperse is a wily artist. He dubs his latest work Truth, Revised Histories, Wishful Thinking, and Flat Out Lies in a nod to the flood of book-length exposés with run-on, tell-all titles. And yet this two-act absurdist tragicomedy makes such a glorious muddle of its own investigation that you almost forget there is one until the end, when a clue appears like a reticent guest.
Jasperse, 46, is one of the few American post-Boomer experimental choreographers to achieve some renown. He tours not only in western Europe but also in the US, and not only to the coasts but also in between. As much an auteur as Pina Bausch, he is less inclined to knit the elements of theatre into a ritualistic whole than to dismantle them so as to link the workings of theatre to those of the world: the “War on Terror”, the stultifying effects of the family, and now truthiness – as the satirist Stephen Colbert would say. Jasperse’s riskiest and freest work to date, Truth etc amounts to a deranged pastiche of borrowed movement – the choreographic equivalent of cheating, if not lying.
Captivating Erin Cornell gives a drunken turn to Twyla Tharp’s ragdoll style. Cornell and Jasperse, the show’s drifting MC, stage a slow-mo kung-fu tussle that ends in a real slap. Eleanor Hullihan and Cornell perform a topless number that combines the affectlessness and self-stroking of the professional stripper with the affectless and planar geometries of postmodern dance. Meanwhile, Neal Beasley and Kayvon Pourazor shed all but their harness-thongs and nuzzle like horses. Together the four dancers array themselves along the lip of the stage to balance on one leg, torsos tilted, in a sampling of Ailey spiritualism. Each imitation is a little off.
Eventually the dancers cluster together, facing in various directions. Fluttery extremes – the fingers, wrists, chin, elbow, never the body’s powerful centre – drive their dancing, which becomes desultory and resembles nothing but itself. I realise slowly that we have arrived at the opposite of quotation – at truth as dance understands it – and it is a subtle thing, private and momentary.