New York

Jeannie Hutchins, Gods Drop Out Of Nowhere

Dance Theater Workshop

It is the unpredictable in life that interests Jeannie Hutchins––what just happens, as opposed to what one plans. In her recent solo work Gods Drop Out of Nowhere, 1989, Hutchins smartly dances and talks her way through what she views as a current ludicrous yearning for exoticism. She seems to consider this desire to be borne and realized so self-absorbedly as to preclude all chance of discovery or understanding. Hutchins closes her performance confessing, “This is how I wanted you. . . . The way a hunter wants a young seal, who dives when it feels it is being followed.” The experience becomes about the hunter’s preconceived strategy and goal; the hunted, in a sense, becomes nonexistent. Hutchins approaches the issue of control cleverly, in terms of how our movement is often externally, subtly orchestrated for us. The piece begins with a kind of deadpan recitation of signs that suggest behavior, one of the most insipid being, “Upon atrium fire alarm, evacuate atrium.” Later in the performance, she approaches this idea more directly by running a slide show that forces the audience to twist around in its seats in order to view images of graveyards and crosses being projected on the left wall.

Other directors have also exposed how controllable we are by controlling us. Anne Bogart, in her piece Assimil, 1987, treated the process of immigration by dividing the men and women of the audience as they entered the performance space. Questions were asked such as, “What’s your favorite color?” and it appeared as if one’s answer determined which side of the room one was seated in. It was only as the space filled up that the audience became aware of how it had been cleverly handled. In Carnations, 1983, Pina Bausch choreographed the entire house to stand up and gesture as if to embrace, after a brutal performance seemingly fueled by the possibilities of physical manipulation. But whereas Bausch crushes all hope of liberation, Hutchins points to that moment of discovery or awareness which comes when we least suspect it, and perhaps where we least expect it––maybe even in, as she says, “a glass of plain water.” That moment can’t be worked into the itinerary, and to reach it one must relinquish oneself to serendipity, extricate oneself from the imposed choreography, the known perspective.

Hutchins also incorporates passages of movement without any words, and although her monologues are often funny, occasionally verbose, and always intelligent, she is most provocative when she dances. Whether she is stretching every step catlike—slowly, deliberately, almost furtively—or twirling about frenetically making waving motions, Hutchins shows an incredible command over the space she inhabits, as well as a mastery of gesture, from the most awkward to the most lyrical.

Melissa Harris