When Suchu Dance premieres its new work Masters of Semblance next week at Barnevelder Theater, it might look as if the audience has been invited to a celebratory reception. Or not...or maybe.
(Never mind that opening night, March 24, includes an actual reception with pre-show food and drink; that's beside the point.)
Jennifer Wood, the founder and choreographer of Suchu, develops performances through a collaborative process with her troupe of dancers, exploring how their bodies move through and within the space of the stage. For this performance, they plan to set the stage with a setting of chairs and a single large table. Maybe it isn't possible to earn a masters degree in semblance, but Suchu will attempt to school us in adept movement and expert interpretation.
Given the symbolic significance of the table - a common space, a meeting place, a philosophical reference to the actual or real - you might imagine that Suchu would tangle with these concepts explicitly, but Wood says, "We don't really work from concepts like that." With props as strongly meaningful as a table and chairs, meanings will arise inevitably. The Suchu troupe works out its creative process by treating the props simply as geometrical objects in space, defining and delimiting their movements. Wood relies on her dancers to make significant decisions about the performance.
It's the audience, ultimately, that will derive meanings like "this is a community, or maybe they're at a board meeting, or maybe they're at the DPS office waiting for their names to be called," Wood explains. These meanings emerge after the fact, once Suchu has provided a sort of collage of situations and images. The furniture also enables the dancers to expand their setting, as when they elevate the dance from the floor to the tabletop.
Wood also costumes her troupe drawing from a collection of thrift-shop finds. For Masters of Semblance, as seen at Suchu's website, they're wearing brightly colored prints for one portion, and for another, prints that are more neutral, black and white. Now master the semblance of that.
(March 24 - April 3, Barnevelder Movement/Arts Complex, 2201 Preston. Tickets here.)