The Fortress of Being: John Jasperse’s “Fort Blossom revisited”

By Rachel Straus

In the women’s bathroom of New York Live Arts, each stall sported a small bottle of lower anatomy cleansing solution. Its odd presence must have been care of choreographer John Jasperse, whose erogenous zone oriented Fort Blossom revisited (2000/2012) held its New York premiere on May 9 in the Chelsea theater.

The hour-long work, for two nude male dancers (Ben Asriel and Burr Johnson) and two clothed female dancers (Lindsay Clark and Erika Hand), is not for the prudish. Anal cavities, penises and balls are seen, but after a while it ceases to be a big deal. Jasperse, who performed in the original production, expanded the length of his 2000 dance and changed the music to that of minimalist Ryoji Ikeda. Yet he keeps the work’s central conceit: the men are nude, the women are not.

Fort Blossom revisited hits all the proverbial buttons. In the work’s beginning, Asriel and Johnson simulate anal sex. Instead of a condom, they are physically separated by a translucent inflatable cushion, which deflates after five minutes of gentle bucking. Presenting and then pushing past (pun intended) the notion that a dance featuring two nude men must be about gay sex, Jasperse then tenders another idea. It is an aesthetic one. The women, dressed in red shifts, perform a slow, side-by-side unison duet. On their backs are red inflatable cushions, whose shape resembles butterfly wings. The upright women perform on a white floor. On the stage’s other side are the men who lie horizontally on a black floor. Later they form a cat’s cradle of sculptural positions. The contrasts between the two sets of dancers becomes conceptual rather than sexual.

When the men and women come together, it’s not the dramatic moment one expects. Instead Jasperse creates a human bumper car vision. With the inflatable cushions pressed to their bellies, the performers gleefully run and bounce off of each other. At the work’s end, they form a quartet and move in full-bodied spirals. After the pedestrian-like choreography from the previous 40-odd minutes, the last moments of Fort Blossom is a garden of delights. It no longer matters who is naked or clothed, who is male or female. The dancers momentarily escape the fortress of human labels. They soar through space, suspended on one leg with their arms floating behind, like kites in the sky.

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