Laurie Berg’s The Afterlife
Laurie Berg’s newest work in progress, The Afterlife, begins with Bessie McDonough-Thayer, Jodi Bender, and Gillian Walsh awkwardly “flossing the space” with a big, quilt-like, fabric, four-way train that connects each performer to one another, creating a palpable statement of interdependence. “We are all in this together,” Berg says at the talkback after the showing. But the flossing is an arduous negotiation, requiring the dancers to talk about how to move forward and backward in the tight space, finally finding a synchronicity that is hard won. This initial “flossing” sets the tone for The Afterlife in that it is very raw, messy, and colloquial. In this kind of conversational, process-orientation, the audience gets to watch in real-time as performers make loose, yet decisive marks in space. The Afterlife honors a choreographic, improv-ritual-like structure that allows space for “mistakes,” failures, and spontaneous things gone awry. In this imperfection, a kind of dramatic irony unfolds, and we are captivated by our own challenged expectations. For instance, performer Gillian Walsh “accidentally” steps on a plastic tea light, cracking it under the weight of her foot. She squeals, “Ouch!” Bessie McDonough-Thayer haphazardly kicks off her shorts, only to have them fly up and get stuck in a rafter in the ceiling. You can’t plan things like this, but you can allow for them. Berg has crafted and set all the right conditions into motion to have this particular, afterlife-world come to life through irony, folly, and absurdity.
Much like it’s own title, The Afterlife has a kind of metaphysical feel to it. It exists like a strange caricature of another plane, another existence. It’s a funny afterlife. It’s a place to hang out. A place of process. A place to pay homage to things of the past by mucking around in the every-day material of the present. These performers conjure a kind of pedestrian magic as they very-matter-of-factly dance and parade around the space. It is as if they are hosting a party and we are all invited. A great welcoming. A great opening, chalk full of all this life’s beautiful imperfections.
– Cassie Peterson