Who hasn’t spent time dwelling in the limbo that is “between jobs?” The endless string of politely worded rejection letters one gets while on the job- hunt is the premise behind Mariah Eastman’s “Inclined to Decline,” presented by Darvin Dances at the Rooted Space on July 14.
Rejection letters with sensitive details omitted by black bars are everywhere—strung up along wires of hanging light bulbs, tied to two tall pillars, taped to the walls and scattered across the blonde wood floor in crumpled piles. In a pre-show announcement, Eastman warns the audience to watch out for paper projectiles. (I was nearly hit by a rouge crumpled ball!)
Music in the program is a mix of ambient world music by Frank Schroeter with heavier tracks by Sascha Ende.
Four dancers—Vinny Haberman, Peyton Jones, Madison Meade and Amanda Milligan, dressed in variations of black and green, meander about while reading the thanks-but-no-thanks letters (sourced from Eastman’s own experience) that should sound familiar to any up-and-coming dance-maker. “Due to the number of choreographers who applied, your submission…will not be chosen.” Reactions range from pedestrian walking to aggressive brawling that withers into arms that slither close to the body.
Despite the rejections, the show must go on, and an abstraction of the rehearsal process is presented through a recurring theme of tentative skooches on tip toe, flat-foot kicks, a pugilist pose in a deep lunge and a defeated hand placed forlornly against the forehead. In a short skit we see the work within a work develop over several iterations.
The strongest moments are when the four performers dance in complimentary and contrasting layers. An example is when three in the background leap up in aileron rolls as one in the foreground glides low across the floor in the opposite direction. The finale is a combination of this strength, with dancers shifting from two-versus-two, then three-versus-one, then everyone off in different directions. Eastman’s ability to keep the audience’s eyes moving with persistent action is worth repeat viewing to capture each part.
The greatest weakness is during the synchronous group sections (there are relatively few) which lack a cohesive unity in execution.
Each dancer receives a solo spotlight focusing on a different emotion—Haberman falls delicately to the floor while considering rejection; Meade rushes around strong and defiant; Milligan recites an angry obloquy while snaking around the room. Peyton Jones gives a strong performance, with graceful and daring mid-air spins that land soundlessly; Jones’ solo was much too short and left me wanting to see more of what this dancer can do!
For anyone who has suffered work-related rejection, “Inclined to Decline” is a cathartic experience. Eastman refuses to let it get her down, a lesson in perseverance that we can all learn from.
For more on Mariah Eastman and Darvin Dances, check out their bio page on SeeChicagoDance.com by clicking the link here: Darvin Dances For more on Mariah Eastman and Darvin Dances, check out their bio page on SeeChicagoDance.com by clicking the link here: Darvin Dances