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Housewares (1980)

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1981 performers: Judith Chaffee, Martha Armstrong Gray, Dawn Kramer
Tom Krusinski, Carlo Rizzo, Michael Shannon of Dance Collective and extras
Pianists: Jim Brough, Evan Harlan
Documentary video made at Jacob’s Pillow

Having explored traditional women’s work as a source for making dances, I also wanted to investigate traditional men’s work for choreographic material. In Housewares, auto mechanics and construction work appear transformed in surreal and absurd ways. Mundane objects again become physical, kinesthetic and metaphorical extensions of the performers, a mechanic’s creeper, a lunchbox, a boombox. The section called “Linen Closet” was inspired by a photo by Karen Plesur in a collection of women’s photography. It was a full evening movement event performed at Longwood Theater, Massachusetts College of Art, Dance Theater Workshop, NYC, Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival.

Reviews

Housewares deals, in a witty and provocative way, with stereotypes about men and women and with their helpless involvement with such tyrannical elements of modern life as telephones and cars. Housewares is marvelous. Although Kramer treats standard themes, she avoids standardized methods, creating a piece of stylish, surprising, sophisticated theater.

-Christine Temin, The Boston Globe, November 24, 1981



(in Housewares), Kramer grabs every choreographic opportunity for slices, jibes, and general mirth....Creeper, a trio with the three male dancers, centered around a car tune-up: Much peering beneath an imaginary car body, with tinkering, squatting, hammering and shoptalk...

Linen Closet was exquisite, delicately drawn, static. Clumps of dancers grouped themselves on either side of a door against the black backdrop like a tableau of Rembrandt. The two mechanics, Carlo Rizzo and Michael Shannon, tried every tool to get the door to open. They yelled for wrenches, screws, pipes. They flattened themselves on the door panel only to slide off onto the floor. Finally...one of the dancers (Martha Armstrong Gray) reached across to gently swing the door open with just a twist of the knob. Exposed were upper and lower shelves of bundled linen; a nude woman crouched like a fetus on the middle shelf. The moment was a breath holder. In utter silence she slid gently off the shelf and crawled weakly to stagefront for one agonizing open spasm that was like a pitiful offering.

Not Swan Lake, certainly, but an evening of laughter and flabbergast.

-Donna Bradford, Sojourner, January, 1982