The Heart is the Matter: 4CHAMBERS

02/26/2014 4:00 AM |


With the successes of Sleep No More and the haunting, spectacularly detailed Then She Fell, a lot of theatrical creatives are likely to start producing site-specific, immersive theater, even if it doesn’t suit their talents. One of these people, alas, is choreographer Jody Oberfelder, who has fashioned a ridiculous evening called 4CHAMBERS at Greenpoint’s Arts@Renaissance (through March 22). Sitting in the waiting area, I was greeted by the diminutive Oberfelder herself. When the time came to start the performance—only 12 people are led through at a time—she guided each of us by the hand into the space and made us lie down, which took quite a while. We then stared at an aimless video of her dancers jumping around, which also lasted quite some time. Finally we were led up, one by one, into another space, and I knew right away that something was wrong—it all felt so pointless.

Oberfelder’s limber dancers led us through some movements. They were nothing complicated and nothing that interesting; it felt like being in an acting class. The dancers took center stage by themselves for a while and performed lots of movements clearly related to the heart’s beating: pulling in, contracting. The dancers would grab our hands and put them over their hearts when they were really rac-
ing, and sometimes they put their hands over our hearts. Which were still beating. But not as fast.

Then half of us were led into a brightly lighted room, where we had heart monitors placed on our fingers. An image of a man appeared on a wall before us, and he asked very general questions. Whenever our own image showed up next to his, we were supposed to answer. He would ask something like, “How does being aware of your heart make you feel?” and one person would answer, and then he would ask the same question to another person. This was all aimless and irritating, but everyone remained polite. It amazes me, sometimes, just how polite people can be in the face of nonsense.

We were led into another room and made to stand in front of a heart monitor for a very long time while the others went through the same rigmarole with the questions in the other room, and at this point some people in our room started laughing. Everything seemed so comically inept. 4CHAMBERS ended with another little dance session and then we were done. Oberfelder should have just created a short dance about the heart at the Joyce or Dance Theater Workshop and left the immersive and site-specific theater to others.

One Comment

  • Dear Dan,

    Just wanted to let you know that Dance Theater Workshop no longer exists. It’s now called New York Live Arts after a merger with the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company.

    If you’re going to write dismissive reviews without any real content or examination of the piece you’re supposed to be reviewing you should at least fact check it.

    Also, please read this:

    Art Criticism should be thoughtful, should place work in context, and should give the reader a way to understand and access the work. Your piece does none of this. Anybody can go online and tell the world they thought a particular work of art was pointless. That is not your job. Please take your role more seriously.

    Also, please tell your editor to send someone who knows about and/or has a meaningful relationship to/knowledge of dance to the next dance performance they want to review.