Bryn Mawr College Revisits John Jasperse's Groundbreaking Fort Blossom
John Jasperse's original Fort Blossom. Photo by Maria Anguera de Sojo. © 2000. Pictured: Miguel Gutierrez, John Jasperse, Parker Lutz, and Juliette Mapp.
"So much of dance is incomprehensible," choreographer John Jasperse said in 2000. "As I make more work, I'm not as interested in having to explain. What is so interesting is the stuff you can't explain." This was the year Jasperse's critically noted Fort Blossom premiered at New York City performance space The Kitchen. Twelve years after its debut, Bryn Mawr College's Performing Arts Series presented this work with the John Jasperse Company as Fort Blossom Revisited (2000/2012). Jasperse, who dance critic Anna Kisselgoff described in the New York Times as "one of the best of the truly experimental artists," was the recipient of a 2011 United States Artist Fellowship and a 2001 Bessie Award, among many other accolades. He took this opportunity to not only revisit the choreography, as the new title suggested, but to contemporize the work and push the limits of the previous staging.
In an essay about this project and how it played into the larger scope of Jasperse's work, Suzanne Carbonneau wrote, "Fort Blossom had a limited run in 2000, but its reputation was enormous: word went out that Jasperse had created a bold exploration of our creaturely natures, willing to show what hadn't been seen before on a dance stage. How to achieve the same effect after more than a decade of cultural evolution?" This was the primary challenge for Jasperse, whose work is known for delving into unknown and uncomfortable subject matter, while constantly pushing the boundaries of tradition. Fort Blossom pays close attention to parts of the body that are usually overlooked in dance—with slow-moving, precise choreography that is awkwardly beautiful and, which Carbonneau said, "finds rapport in the fundamental commonality of our bodies." Jasperse also subverts expectations of gender roles and challenges problematic histories of objectification of female dancers. The work is performed by nude male dancers and clothed females, who perform together on a half-white, half-black stage. Jasperse has written that Fort Blossom "allows us to perceptually acknowledge the body in all its facets as simultaneously special, even miraculous, and ordinary."
Why decide to return to Fort Blossom? Carbonneau argued that in our culture's current state of warring ideologies, the work reminded us that "we share the pleasures, pains, embarrassments, joys, and befuddlements of human experience." And as Jasperse rarely returns to past works, this second-ever presentation of Fort Blossom was a unique chance for new audiences to see a seminal work that demonstrates a master choreographer's dedication to dance fundamentals and discovery through art making.
The world premiere performances of Fort Blossom Revisited (2000/2012) took place at Bryn Mawr College from February 24–26, 2012.