Dance preview: The Seldoms’ Stupormarket

Philip Elson in the Seldoms' Stupormarket

Philip Elson in the Seldoms' Stupormarket Photograph: William Frederking

Choreographer Carrie Hanson, artistic director of the Seldoms, made Thrift and Death of a (Prada) Salesman in 2009. The two short works spoke, with poetry and humor respectively, to the recent credit collapse. She then switched gears to complete work on [node:75753 link=a collaborative multimedia abstraction;] that premiered at the MCA.

But Hanson still had some things to say about the financial crisis. “I considered just making a triptych, but mostly I hoped to find a way to put [Thrift and Salesman] together,” she says after rehearsal in one of Columbia College’s new dance studios at 916 South Wabash. With Stupormarket, [node:169087 link=at Stage 773 Thursday 17 through Sunday 20;], revised versions of both works are surrounded by new material, creating a feature-length performance that cuts cleaner and deeper than either did alone.

Hanson’s as self-effacing as ever, telling me she wishes she had “another two months” to experiment in the studio. But to my eyes, with four days until opening night, Stupormarket is in great shape, occupying that sweet spot between over- and under-rehearsed.

Its scenes vary broadly in tone. What began as Thrift, a duet danced mostly in unison, finds Paige Cunningham and Christina Gonzalez-Gillett moving from stage left to stage right pinned flat to the floor as though shimmying under a bank vault alarm system’s lasers. The pair also slash arms and legs like machetes through dense foliage. Parts of Paul Krugman’s lecture “The Financial Meltdown and the Future of American Politics” play at length while the dancers’ clenched fists drive hard-won territorial gains. The two seek to win space like cowboy financiers escaping economic gravity through creative exploitation of loosely regulated markets. Krugman’s voice gets replaced by the sound of footsteps through mud or wet garbage, in turn replaced by rhythmically arranged cash register sounds and then a siren in the distance. (Audio, expertly managed throughout, is by frequent Goodman and Steppenwolf designer Richard Woodbury, music director of Columbia’s dance department and maestro of two previous Seldoms productions.)

Later, the section that began as Salesman stars Philip Elson as a Prada shopkeep who argues against the prudence of a talking bearskin rug. A sassy mink coat (Amanda McAlister), flamboyant diamond (Damon Green, in silver sequined hot pants) and Palin-inspired Hummer (Cara Sabin) join in, voiced over by actor Michael Dobbs. In what gradually becomes a requiem—Woodbury beds the scene with Mozart’s Masonic funeral music—Hanson thankfully declines a rant against fashion. Stupormarket doesn’t deny the appeal of objects and their roles in our performances of identity.

One newer sequence first seen at [node:95265 link=December’s DanceBridge showing;] recalls [node:69779 link=the monetization of dance steps;] in Julia Rhoads’s Punk Yankees. It’s quite the meta moment, although re-conceived freshly enough here not to smack of theft. Peter Carpenter’s My Fellow Americans is the other notable antecedent, similarly rigorous in its politics and artfully entertaining. Hanson quotes Bush on Wall Street much like Carpenter did Reagan on AIDS.

Each of the eight Seldoms shine in Hanson’s latest, their unique skills thoughtfully incorporated into a cohesive whole. Even [node:82323 link=Green’s vogueing;] and a dash of [node:96511 link=Bollywood dance;] don’t stretch things too far. Javier Ramos, a recent graduate from UW–Milwaukee, emerges as a vital new addition to the group. Most importantly, however, Stupormarket succeeds at bringing a situation we regard with anger, frustration and fatigue a fresh new perspective. There’s no shortage of editorials bemoaning our financial future, but this one has its sleeves rolled up, bearing ideas that actually help.

[node:169087 link=The Seldoms present Stupormarket at Stage 773 Thursday 17 through Sunday 20.;]

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Laura Baginski, Editor (@TimeOutChicago)