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Monument explores trash with flash – Chicago Tribune review

By Lucia Mauro.
Special to the Tribune.

The Seldoms’ latest dance-based performance can be summed up in one word: garbage. But that’s not as bad as it sounds. Trash may be the subject of artistic director Carrie Hanson’s landfill-inspired “Monument”, but her intelligent approach to the long-term repercussion of consumption and waste is a breath of fresh air. The abstract work – at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts – goes beyond eco-responsibility.

A multidisciplinary arts collaborative with dance at its core, the Chicago-based Seldoms generate topical narrative out of sculptural movement. In the taut, pared-down “Monument,” seven dancers transform themselves into trash compactors and callously discarded refuse. Yet the performers can be human, too, whether they execute a disturbing dance around one another’s pants pockets to suggest transactional relationships, or suffocate from invisible toxins.

Cara Sabin, a beautifully expressive dancer, performs a solo around stench. Her gestures, accompanied by sniffing wheezing ambient sounds should make audiences wince. But because Sabin finds humor in the discomfort and brings a childlike inhibition to her performance, it becomes whimsically provocative.

During the 50-minute work, the dancers’ bodies even become spasmodic machinery, especially as they navigate Richard Woodbury’s extruder-like sounds. Around them, a video of disparate shapes by Jackie Kazarian and Doug Stapleton subconsciously reminds viewers of the eventual large-scale disposal of all those produced items.

But “Monument” is not a dreary lesson in waste-management practices. It gives a viable history to tossed-out things that were once a part of us.