Jonah Bokaer

Two weeks ago, Jonah visited Brockport for a week-long residency; he taught three intermediate/advanced technique classes (what up Cunningham?!??!) and some media-workshops (that I couldn’t attend because I had class…boo hiss).

His style is so streamlined and precise, it was a little intimidating how in control and effortless he made his spinal articulations appear, and the arches of his feet are like right-angles…something that stood out to me, a dancer with wide-ass pancake feet.

To conclude his stay at Brockport Thursday and Friday evening, Jonah and his close-knit team of collaborators performed a Brockport-version of Replica. To be honest, based on his technique class alone (which was so codified and straight forward), I was expecting this performance to be really cut and dry, black and white, clean lines with a minimalist aesthetic, etc. And it was…but only kind of…

Replica was originally created to be site-specific, and as far as I could tell, it worked great on Hartwell’s tiny-little stage. (According to the program…) Replica “…explores memory loss, movement pattern recognition, and perceptual faculties in relationship to space”.  I sat in on a pre-performance discussion earlier in the week and learned that an additional concept for the piece was considering what would happen if everything collapsed inwards? So that the “wings”, the place of rest for the performers actually lived on stage…

Trippy.

Immediately following my last rehearsal on Friday, I showered faster than I have ever showered in my life (I hate showering…), and then ran back to the theater to wait in line for the spectacle that was rumored to be crazy-innovative; I was ready to have my mind blown.

Side Note: The hard part about holding a performance on a college campus is that you get a lot of students who don’t actually want to be there. Half of the audience was in attendance merely because they had to be for class credit, so aside from the laughing and obnoxious clapping at inappropriate times (at least the texting was at a minimum), the performance was intense from the moment it started to the moment it finished.

The concert began with Jonah and his partner, CC walking downstage, they rested on top of each other while a video was projected onto this crazy box-like sculpture behind them. So maybe the concert actually began the second I walked in the door, when I saw this big white boxy-thing nonchalantly hanging out in the center of the space? (Picture a cube where one corner is facing front, and the two adjacent sides are splitting center; each side looks like it’s been cracked…like a windshield after a rock gets the best of it). I’m already intrigued.

the box-thing…not at Brockport

The first video was actually in reverse (…retrograde?) where we watched Jonah and CC climb through a hole in a wall….and then later another man (I assume his visual designer, Daniel Arsham) appeared, and ultimately was the one who destroyed the wall with a sledge-hammer.

Wait, was the thing on stage “the wall”?? Now I’m confused, but you haven’t lost me yet, Mr. Bokaer.

Upon completion of the video, Jonah and CC began a duet with some interesting partnering. Except for a few key moments of clear interaction, I couldn’t decipher clear story between the two of bodies, and while they look nothing alike, it was almost like watching gender-less clones perform side by side. Several phrases were repeated and referenced to (ok memory loss and pattern recognition, I feel you…) in and between each dancer’s solo.

Jonah surprised me by his subtle performance-quality. He’s not a super-loud person in class, but you definitely feel his presence when he walks in the room; he knows what he wants, and he knows how to get it. It’s like getting stung by a bee without ever hearing or seeing the bee in the first place. On stage however, I didn’t feel the same presence; it was like he had a secret that he was only willing to share so much of, I had to take the initiative to lean in and pull the rest out of him.

Playing hard to get, I see.

CC on the other hand was an animal. You know when you watch a video in fast-forward and the quality gets all F’d up… it kind of looks cool because it’s all choppy, but you can still see what’s going on? That was CC’s movement dynamic, she is CRAZY fierce. Her solos couldn’t last long enough in my opinion, and anytime she took the stage alone, I couldn’t tell if what I was seeing from this Gap-kids sized body was real-life… or if I was losing it. I still can’t figure out where she was putting her dynamic emphasis–the beginning, middle, or end of her phrasing, or maybe all three simultaneously? It wasn’t human. I don’t know, maybe I was so pulled in because she gave no alternative.

CC…not so hard to get.

Media was intermittently projected onto the box-thing, and eventually Mr. Arsham made a live appearance on stage, he busted out of one side and then eventually busted back through the other. In between his projects of mass-destruction, he would hide behind the wall (and CC too for that matter)…

….wait, I get it now…the wings were collapsed in…clever…hat’s off to you, team!

The collaboration between the performers (Jonah, CC, and Daniel), the original-music score (ARP/Alexis Georgopoulos), the set design (Timothy Stanley), the light design and use of shadows (Aaron Copp), and the video editing (Nicoletta Massignani), this performance truly was unlike anything I had ever seen before.

While I’m not sure I “got it” as I was sitting there in the theater (it started to feel a little long at times), the more I thought about the performance and discussed it afterwards, the more inspired and thought-provoking I began to remember it; this was definitely a piece that I’d pay to see again. It’s similar to a mystery movie where once you find out who the killer actually is, you have to go back a second time to pick up on all of the subtle clues you missed…

Side Note (again): Ok, so I’ll give credit to the not-so interested students who were sitting there; it was a crazy-deep performance, and an extremely challenging first-time experience. On the other hand, nobody said breaking your performance-cherry was going to be easy…

Mr. Bokaer (and team), job well done.

Overall I’d rate this performance 4½ rhinestones out of 5

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