Performed by Jasperse and Juliette Mapp, just two dancers pushes the limits of audience proximity and perception, where viewers sit in the OtB mainstage amongst a dozen dance platforms and most of the activity occurs in the space of the audience.
Artist Statement: just two dancers is fundamentally about perception and expectation. It plays with how architecture and experience shape expectations which in turn propose pre-determined limits and structural hierarchies on our perceptual experience. As viewers we choose, whether knowingly or not, to either accept or attempt to subvert these predetermined hierarchies in trying to make sense of what we see.
This piece was originally specially created for the new Dance Theater Workshop space in NYC - a recently constructed performance venue designed for dance of the new millennium. The architecture of DTW is thus not neutral, but is telling us something about the designers' ideas about anticipated programmatic experiences of the oncoming years within those walls. We view the performance inside the actual physical reification of these ideas i.e. the theater itself. The seats that are bolted into concrete project our vision into the space in front of us. Lights focus our vision on the implied important spots in our field of vision.
But all of this is just a proposed hierarchy, and our experiences have to do with how we respond to these hierarchies. As Bernard Tschumi has written, "Sensuality has been known to overcome even the most rational of buildings." just two dancers focuses on the active, rather than the passive aspects of perception, thereby highlighting the fact that what we do with our perception has a direct effect on what we see and what we understand from what we see. The work is designed to heighten the audience’s awareness of how the hazards of one's perspective on an event/object radically change one's understanding of it, and how the choices one makes in viewing are in fact compositional choices of perception that also result in distinct experiences and differentiated understandings of the meaning of the object that is seen.
just two dancers also examines the notion of the essential and the extraneous, and asks the audience to examine how we assign these various attributes to the events/objects within our perceptual field. The ambiguity in the title, just two dancers, regarding the worth of "just two dancers," exemplifies this question. Are we heightening one's expectations of the performance by describing it in terms of having been pared down to its pure essentials, or are we dismissing the work by describing it as an insignificant number of people who are on the fringes of society? Do these questions apply only to the rarified experiences within the walls of a dance performance venue, or are there questions of perception that relate to how we experience and understand everything from our personal relationships to the media and ultimately the world we live in? This is left for the spectator to decide.
Within the performance, the focus of the performers shifts, paralleling the shift of the audience’s focus -- from relations with the other performer to relations with the audience, and from relations with the physical and sonic space to internal experiences of the body and the self. In regards to the last of these, Jasperse's recent studies of Butoh and related work in Japan during the summer of 2002 have strongly marked the physical language of the vocabulary.