John Jasperse’s ‘Canyon’: Out of the box

Burr Johnson and Erin Cornell perform John Jasperse’s “Canyon.”

Walk into the BAM Harvey to see John Jasperse’s “Canyon” and you’ll know something unusual is up: The lobby floors and walls are covered with lines of acid green tape. Even the ladies’ room has been attacked, and the house itself, with its rows of bench seats, is not immune.

Onstage, a white dance floor, tilted sideways, has a high lip at its back end. Green tape makes tracks here, too, among a few marks of blaze orange.  The rear wall looks like a topographical map of a desert landscape, or a political diagram of gerrymandered election districts. Four musicians, including composer Hahn Rowe, cluster upstage, twittering and droning, occasionally erupting into crescendos of sound.

Six tall performers gambol on the floor, often in pairs moving in unison, circulating around triangular blaze-orange flags. Dancer James McGinn wears a flag on a tall pole attached to his body, creating a marvelous effect as he runs and bounces.

Then a large white box, the size of a ’50s television, rolls into the space, stolidly crossing the floor and tipping its way over the lip at the back. The gifted dancers continue to noodle around, ignoring the new arrival. We’re riveted by the box, which is marking its own path with dribbles of blaze orange tape. It actually attaches some performers to the floor.

Jasperse himself stands looking bemused, as if waiting for more mysterious arrivals from outer space or the edge of the desert. Tony Orrico designed the production, and his vision threatens to overwhelm the choreography. The last thing we see, after the curtain calls, is Mr. Box, center stage, still leaking his orange lines.


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