Instruments of Movement | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Instruments of Movement 

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Seems like everyone's got Jesus fever. But there's no way you'd confuse Instruments of Movement's version of the Passion with Mel Gibson's. Lifted: A Multimedia Ballet features a female savior, Suzanne, played by tall, powerful redhead Katy L. Kempen with a calm but not inhuman strength--and no gore. Lifted is a sort of Jesus Christ Superstar for the 21st century, but with far fewer ties to the biblical story. Singer-songwriter Peter Gere plays John the Baptist, sort of, and assistant artistic director Raphaelle Ziemba a combination of Judas and Mary Magdalene. But the identities of the other ten performers are pretty much up for grabs. The choreography, by artistic director James Morrow and Ziemba, is a mixed bag of modern, hip-hop, and African dance, set to music ranging from classical to Leonard Cohen to Radiohead and Common; Morrow has also created video projections and manipulations, including a live taping of folks getting baptized. But this 45-minute piece isn't quite the hodgepodge it might seem. For one thing Morrow and Ziemba rely on motifs, often related to water: at one point the dancers crouch and roll, seemingly rocked by waves, and at another the choreography resembles Alvin Ailey's in the "Take Me to the Water" section of Revelations. The choreographers also include easily recognizable scenes, though one of the piece's charms is the way they're turned on their heads. In "Hey Brother, Pour the Wine" the Last Supper is reconceived as something of a drunken brawl: the apostles tickle and poke one another, fall over, play musical chairs, and dance goofy mincing waltzes. Yet the section concludes on a somber note with a recitation from Kahlil Gibran ("And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance"). Other segments are also mysterious and moving, like the duet between Kempen and Ziemba called "Rite of Passage," in which splayed fingers transform the nature of an embrace. Ruth Page Center for the Arts, 1016 N. Dearborn, 312-337-6543. Through March 6: Friday-Saturday, 8 PM. $15-$20; $10 for children under eight.

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