Jellyeye | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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When I was a kid watching the Raspberry Day parade in Hopkins, Minnesota, I always loved the drum-and-bugle corps best because they shook me right up the middle, from the bottom of my sneakers to the top of my baking head. Jellyeye also plays percussion loud--but the eight-member troupe does a lot besides. Like wear beautiful costumes. Jump around. Scream. Build unusual drums spotted like cows or lit up to resemble glowing moons. Its Blood Lotus, first performed in 1993, is a beautiful jagged landscape of shifting sounds, shifting people, and shifting drums (on casters) forged of discarded metal. Highly formal in the way African dance is, it allows us to see the individuals performing, how they are alone and how they interact in duets, trios, quartets. The obvious comparison is to the percussion group Stomp, but Jellyeye is more human, more ritualistic, and more focused. The 40-minute Blood Lotus, which will be on Jellyeye's upcoming program, represents its steely, fierce side, but it has others as well: two of six projected "Lantern Tales" are also part of the evening. One, the wolfish tale, is accompanied by Jeff Dorchen's armchair reading of company cofounder Ollie Seay's text; the second, according to the other company founder, Shu Shubat, is driven by the idea of "contained air." With drums and costumes that seem to float, it's as Aquarian as Blood Lotus is sanguine--yet this soft, drifting piece also has its demonic side. Prepare to have the heart beat out of you. Dance Center of Columbia College, 4730 N. Sheridan, 989-3310. February 15 through 17: Thursday-Saturday, 8 PM. $14-$16. --Laura Molzahn

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Leslie Slavin.


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