Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

Review: CLOSER(GROUP) at Dance Place

closer(group), a production by the visiting BodyCartography Project, opened Dance Place's 2017/2018 season on Saturday night. This bold, interactive performance made me question many of my preconceived notions about dance. It also made me question what responsibility artists-especially those in immersive performances-have to make their audiences feel safe.

closer(group) was performed in a black box where audience members were allowed to move and stand where they liked. This meant that my view of the performers shifted each time I moved, adding complexity to relatively simple choreography. At the top of the show, a company member danced for me and framed the room with her hands much like a film director would frame a shot. closer(group) was clearly meant to challenge how we view dance.

These personalized dances are a hallmark of the BodyCartography Project, and the company spent the past week performing one-on-one dances in public spaces around D.C. For me this was one of the most arresting parts of the performance; the direct connection I felt with my company member was electric. This same sense of connection permeated the next section of the performance, where company members critiqued a soloist's improvised routine. ("It looked like you were levitating. What if you wanted to levitate, but couldn't?") Watching the revised solo felt like witnessing the birth of something special.

Despite these moments of connection, there was something a little wrong with closer(group)'s relationship with its audience. Immersive shows require audience members to place a lot of trust in performers; getting rid of the fourth wall reduces distance but can also destroy the audience's sense of safety. A long middle section of closer(group) was performed in a total blackout. This was an artistic choice with merit: it was fascinating to hear, instead of see, dance. But the darkness continued long enough to make me, someone at home in small spaces, antsy. For someone with anxieties or trauma in this area, the prolonged darkness, accidental touch of the dancers, or strange vocalizations may have been enough to provoke a seriously negative reaction. I was surprised to see no warning or description of this section in the program, especially since the one-on-one dances at the top of the show revolved around consent. ("Can I dance for you?" "Of course!")

After the lights were back on, the audience was invited into the middle of the room while the company performed a dizzying circle dance around us. Once again our perspective of the performance was flipped: here we were in the middle of the performance space, being watched by the performers. The momentum of the dancers was energizing, but the long period of darkness left the audience hesitant to engage as the performance ended and transitioned into a dance party, DJ and all.

Regardless of how you feel about prolonged darkness, closer(group) is a daring piece of art. Its inclusion in Dance Place's season bodes well for new artistic director Chrisotpher K. Morgan's tenure. I look forward to seeing what else Dance Place has in store this year.

Photo credit: Jonathan Hsu

Monumental Theatre Company Presents SPRING AWAKENING Photo
Monumental Theatre Company will stage Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater's Spring Awakening. Based on Frank Wedekind's 1891 play of the same name, the story follows a group of German teenagers who discover and explore their sexual identities.

Theater J Names Hayley Finn as New Artistic Director Photo
Theater J has announced that Hayley Finn (she/her) will become its new Artistic Director on February 1, 2023.

Chita Rivera to be Honored With Signature Theatres 2023 Stephen Sondheim Award Photo
On April 3, 2023, Virginia’s Tony Award-winning Signature Theatre will honor the theatrical icon Chita Rivera with the company’s twelfth Stephen Sondheim Award.

Pianist Brian Ganz Performs All Chopins Chamber Music With Cellist Carter Brey Next Month Photo
Internationally acclaimed pianist Brian Ganz celebrates his 12th annual concert in his quest to perform the complete works of Frédéric Chopin with “An Evening of Chopin's Chamber Music with Brian Ganz and Friends” at The Music Center at Strathmore at 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 25, 2023.

From This Author - Hannah Land

Hannah Land is a poet, playwright, and performing arts critic. Her poetry and short fiction has appeared in literary magazines such as Pangyrus Literary Magazine, Sick Magazine, Fatal Flaw Literary... (read more about this author)

BWW Review: QUIXOTE NUEVO at Round House TheatreBWW Review: QUIXOTE NUEVO at Round House Theatre
October 6, 2021

It’s rare that you come across a new adaptation of a classic text that feels groundbreaking and new while still retaining the heart of the original. But Quixote Nuevo by Octavio Solis, currently playing at the Round House Theatre, is just that.

September 12, 2021

Ragamala Dance Company’s Fires of Varanasi: Dance of the Eternal Pilgrim is a beautiful, meditative piece that makes the most of the Kennedy Center’s new outdoor space on the REACH campus. For this reviewer it was the first in-person performance since Covid began, and its transportive qualities fulfilled my desire for immersive art in a way that I have been desperately missing.

BWW Review: HI, ARE YOU SINGLE? at Woolly Mammoth Theatre CompanyBWW Review: HI, ARE YOU SINGLE? at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company
February 1, 2021

Ryan Haddad’s one man show Hi, Are You Single?, currently available to stream from Wooly Mammoth Theatre Company, is perfect pandemic viewing.