Choreographer Justin Jones doesn't need much in the way of props or costumes to travel back in time. His show Pinhead Sings Hello Life, presented in June by the Red Eye Theater's Isolated Acts series, was inspired by an idyllic suburban childhood, yet there were no split-levels or station wagons in sight. Although the theatrical space was spare, it still reverberated with memories, most of them unique to Jones, others shared perhaps by fellow performers Sarah Baumert, Anna Marie Shogren, and Dylan Skybrook. This sense was best illustrated in the opening moments when the dancers, hidden by a wall, could only be seen moving with the help of strategically placed mirrors. It was a simple enough trick to summon up fragmented experiences from the past, but its savvy simplicity set the tone for a work that continuously surprised with revelations both big and small.
This ability to dismantle expectations is part of Jones's skill as a dual-threat artist who can turn a dance phrase and also create an original sound score to back it up. He's a lanky guy who moves with the sort of elastic grace that leaves plenty of room for a specific awkwardness, dry wit, and physical intensity. Jones also has a jazz background, so during Pinhead the dancers broke into an impromptu Broadway number, but overall he's evolved into the sort of interesting mover who defies categorization—each new effort demonstrates an intellectual and kinesthetic curiosity working in balance.
Jones has created several other pieces aside from Pinhead, most notably the SCREEN/the THING in the Walker Art Center's Momentum series last year. That work built on an underlying relationship to physics, but it was less a technical treatise than an abstract poem about extremely committed bodies in motion. Still, it's a kind of mad science to conjure up so much to talk about in the spaces between people who move, and Jones is quickly mastering it.
Caroline Palmer is a Minneapolis attorney, dance critic, and frequent contributor to City Pages.
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