Home Improvement Meets Contemporary Dance

Karen Sherman's new multimedia performance at DiverseWorks incorporates wood planks and buckets.

By Adam Castañeda May 1, 2014

Karen Sherman, One with Others, pictured L to R: Karen Sherman, Jeffrey Wells, Joanna Furnans

Image: Carrie Wood

Karen Sherman: One With Others
May 2 & 3 at 7:30
$15; $10 students & seniors
The Barn, 2201 Preston St.

Although a garage might be the last place you’d go to find props for a dance, that’s exactly where performance artist Karen Sherman found the inspiration for One with Others, a multimedia dance presented by DiverseWorks at The Barn on the evenings of May 2 and 3. The dance utilizes wood planks and hardware that function as part costume, part sculpture. Sherman was drawn to these objects’ tangibility, especially considering the ephemeral nature of dance.

“I like to build things, and I find that the tactile nature of objects is a relief from the abstractions of dance-making,” explains Sherman. “It's a kind of respite to deal with physical things that stay static, that are as you left them when you come back the next day, since in dance you have to start over every day, to be enacting movement in order for it to exist.”

Karen Sherman, One with Others, pictured L to R: Jeffrey Wells, Joanna Furnans

One with Others has at its foundation a strong collaborative component. Created over the span of two years, the choreographic process included sessions of improvised dancing, writing, and singing. Sherman originally created the piece with two dancers, one of them Joanna Furmans, who will star in the Houston presentation. She’ll be joined here by Don Mabley-Allen, who’s new to the dance. “It's actually been a perfect and fascinating experiment to have a new person in that role, because the piece deals a lot with people who aren't in the room but who are implied to be,” Sherman says.  

Unusually for a dance performance, the dancers speak onstage. In one sequence, a dancer recites a list of words related to the idea of beauty as a spoken accompaniment for another dancer. The result is movement influenced simultaneously by text and subtext. The material is intended to evoke a strong response, even in people who aren’t normally interested in dance.

“People are so worried they won't ‘get’ dance,” Sherman says. “Most of these people ‘get’ sports, which is also a situation where you have a bunch of people using their bodies to navigate an obscure set of rules. I always think that because dance uses the body, which is the one thing we all share, that biology alone offers you a way in.” 

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