We hear a lot about work, how it’s wearing us down, or covering the bills, or how much it lets us “contribute to the economy as consumers.”
Less attention is paid to looking at our bodies at work: the rhythm of routine, the mesh of collaboration and the reach of accomplishment. It’s how we’re sometimes reduced to a fist by what others think of the work we’re doing, or elevated to a higher state by the sense of purpose it gives us. It’s man as Icarus but also as machine.
The Jobs Project, playing in Philadelphia through today, is a bold, imaginative, and sharply executed dialogue in words and movement that captures familiar and unfamiliar truths about the work we all do.
We say it with paint or poetry or sculptural forms because they open up levels of meaning that are simply not available any other way. This is true of dance too, but The Jobs Project from a company called RealLivePeople(in)Motion, gets its singular edge by also being a hybrid. It pairs the cadence of one to six dancers with recorded comments from men and women about their work, and mid-dance interviews with the performers themselves about what they do when they’re not dancing—or do so that they can dance—all to an hypnotic score by Ilan Isakov.
This inspired mash-up of inputs provides take-aways about the workplace that add both layers and textures to what we think we know about what happens there every day.
The Jobs Project is the brainchild of Gina Hoch-Stall, its richly gifted choreographer and director. Gina dances too, with the precision clockwork of a troupe that includes Molly Jackson, David Konyk, Sara Nye, Mason Rosenthal and Hedy Wyland.
Ingredients essential to the whole were provided by others too, like Andrea Calderise (artist), Megan Quinn (dramaturg), Patricia Dominguez (costume design), Maria Shaplion (lighting) and those joining Ilya on the sound score (Four Tet, Garth Stevenson, Michael Wall, Nathan Fake and The Books). Grassroots support for a performance that’s been building for more than a year was given a welcomed assist by the Puffin Foundation (“continuing the dialogue between art and the lives of ordinary people”), the Latvian Society (by hosting) and Yards Brewing Company (by wetting the whistle).
Like a start-up company, almost as breathtaking as anything here was the ability of this dedicated core to make something this wondrous come to life.
You can see a bit of the magic for yourself in the rehearsal footage here (with some or all of the piece to be posted later). While you’re watching, I invite you to imagine an element in the performance that made one of the most important points of all.
The Jobs Project was crisp and precise, but improvised and spontaneous too, like the best work. It is one of the dancers, Mason Rosenthal, who interviews the other dancers as they crisscross the space. The fun he had throughout, and how his seemingly off-the-cuff comments both relieve and accentuate the rigor of the forms around him, said something essential about the work we all do.
That it can and should provide a measure of fun while you’re doing it.
Hats off to all!