JACK FERVER at ADI by Luella Christopher

American Dance Institute
Rockville, Maryland
Feb. 20-21, 2015
By Luella Christopher, Ph.D.

Jack Ferver wants his audience to squirm, choreographer and colleague Jane Comfort opines in her introductory lecture to “Chambre”. This comports with ADI’s reputation for interdisciplinary work in post-modern dance and a commitment to artists who deliberately upset the status quo. Borrowing from Genet’s play, “The Maids”, Ferver offers a “broken mirror of artificiality, fake persona and sadism/masochism”. He features himself as the “core, vulnerable, naked” performer. But first Ferver brings the audience onstage to take part in his choreography.

We’re told by the ADI tech crew to enter the theater through a side door and suddenly find ourselves wandering around the stage itself. Marc Swanson has created an ingenious set of panels, doors, ledges, mirrors, pass-throughs, even drapes (some ossified). We brush past fellow dance lovers and finally spot Ferver. He’s standing above us, bedecked in gold chain necklaces. Berating an assistant who “slept on Egyptian cotton sheets” and “failed to set it up” for him, he accepts a can of soda from a more accommodating servant. Jennifer can “buy herself a new tube top” and “in a rock star moment asks for the second bed on a flight back from Paris”. The audience is already howling as it settles into the stadium seats.

The deconstructed narrative from “The Maids” focuses on two male friends played by Ferver and Jacob Slominski (the presumed lover) who begin the piece by meeting in the middle of the stage and holding hands. Soon Ferver is practicing ballet steps behind the clothing rack and Michele Mola (their employer) makes a dramatic entrance in stack heels and cape. Ferver selects a gold lamེ dress from the rack and drapes it over his nearly transparent tunic like a full-body apron. He plays with the dress, calculating whether it can dance.

At center stage, Ferver’s eyes are dominant as they gaze at the ceiling. The partner bangs his head on a ledge, then against a window. The two exchange barbs and rush off to the airport. In flight, Ferver uses the gold dress as a shawl. Meanwhile the girl struts to a back mirror and heaves a politically correct recitation at us – “I love and approve of myself”- over and over. Not for long, though. The employer’s eyes are ripped from her body, but it’s behind the mirror so we only hear the scuffle. The men are stripped down, gazing at the corpse; she has crawled to a door opening at stage right. Should anyone harbor doubts, this piece contains a large element of fantasy. And that’s all I’m prepared to reveal.

“Chambre” doesn’t yield an excess of dancing but I wasn’t mourning. Dialogue – terse, sarcastic, ironic – is central to the work and Ferver utilizes it effectively. We feel like rushing to find our college syllabus for that last class in modern European literature. But then, Genet by definition obscures the ability to comprehend plot or point. So why not mold the venerable French author into a good piece of choreography?

Roarke Menzies composed the music while Reid Barteime designed the costumes for “Chambre”. The source text is an excerpt of Stefani Germanotta’s (Lady Gaga’s) deposition from Jennifer O’Neill v. Mermaid Touring Inc./Lady Gaga (2014) and Christine Papin’s testimony from the Papin Murder Trial of Mme and Mlle Lancelin (1933). Cocky, irreverent and droll aptly describe Ferver’s entertaining colander of dance theater.


Copyright     2015 by Luella Christopher