“The Seldoms’ ‘Monument’ triumphs over trash”
DANCE REVIEW: The Seldoms “Monument” at Stage 773
September 28, 2013 | By Laura Molzahn | Special to the Tribune
Carrie Hanson’s “Monument” is a big, noisy children’s game with a deadly serious intent. Heedless, the six Seldoms performers make faces and toss themselves and others around like toys built to last. But this is no game: Hanson’s subject is our full-tilt destruction of the environment.
The Seldoms first performed “Monument,” inspired by Staten Island’s Fresh Kills Landfill, in 2008. Though this “temporary” dump had closed in 2000, after 53 years in operation, at that point it was the world’s largest man made structure. Since 2009, the land has been gradually reclaimed—its methane gas removed, its garbage mounds capped—to form what will eventually be New York City’s second-largest park. Oddly, one line of the text-rich “Monument” reflects that development, speculating about the ritual destruction and reconstruction of such feats of trash engineering. “Monument” is well worth reviving, as it was over the weekend at Stage 773.
Astounding facts and figures of the sort that might preoccupy a nerdy child—the size of the Statue of Liberty (Fresh Kills was taller), the amount of trash each American produces per day—fill the voiceover texts, written by Liz Burritt and Doug Stapleton. Yet in a transformative act of imagination, “Monument” is never dry or dutiful. Instead Hanson offers an unprecedented intimacy with garbage. Ferocious choreography and implacably savage dancers bring abstractions to life, aided by Richard Woodbury’s sound design, which includes the noise of a barge chugging, a garbage truck churning, glass breaking.
In kinetic terms, “Monument” is driven by the acts of throwing away and grasping. Like garbage men working trucks, Hanson’s dancers often plant their feet wide and fling their fellow performers overhead. The grabby consumerism that underlies our massive garbage production comes to the fore later. In a brilliantly minimal solo set to a toy-xylophone rendition of the Rolling Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” dancer Cara Sabin manipulates a single huge, cheap T-shirt to represent consumers’ many false choices. Then everybody picks everybody’s pockets in an ensemble orgy, set to the pre-punk Deviants’ prescient track “Garbage,” that underscores the deception and greed driving capitalism.
As “Monument” develops, Hanson increasingly equates human beings with trash, uncovering the fundamental ethical basis for environmental measures. Trapped in our solipsism, we may feel that throwing away one more Styrofoam cup won’t matter. But in the big picture, we’re destroying the home we all inhabit—and increasingly destroying our habitat around the world, as the global economy creates new industries and markets, and garbage, overseas.
“Monument” feels excessive and assaultive—and like an angry child, it sometimes goes on at unnecessary length, after the point has been made. But that energy carries the piece. Together, Hanson’s ingenuity and the dancers’ magnificent daredevilry sweep the viewer into a state of ecstatic outrage.