“POWER IS WHERE POWER GOES"
—Lyndon Baines Johnson
Lyndon Johnson, a man who voraciously sought and acquired power, often made this remark. But how does power go, exactly? Where do the powers of persuasion, action, achievement, and resistance come from and how do they work? When do they succeed and when do they fail? What are the costs of power—and the benefits of it? Power Goes is a multimedia dance theater work that uses the figure of Lyndon Johnson to explore these questions. But it is about far more than just LBJ himself. The Seldoms reveal how power is present in intimate exchanges and collective public actions alike, in the past and in the present. They seek out how power flows through—or gets blocked up in—bodies when they lean in, loom over, work together, bear down, relent, resist, or rise up. From LBJ’s contentious 1960s context of civil rights protest and the Vietnam War, Great Society programs and struggles over the future of America, to our present moment of struggles over equality and rights, social change and citizenship, war and peace, political stalemate and the yearning to move America forward or perhaps bring it back to something that got lost, Power Goes uses dance theater to offer perspectives on the performance of power and how power performs.
Power Goes was awarded a 2014 NEFA National Dance Project Award along with the 2014 NPN Creation Fund Award.
XFEST - Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville
Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago
Texas Performing Arts - Austin, TX
Doudna Fine Arts Center - Charleston, IL
Grunin Center for the Arts - Toms River, NJ
Contemporary Dance Theater - Cincinnati, OH
University of Wisconsin, Madison
Purdue Convocations - Lafayette, IN
Dance Place - Washington, D.C.
Artistic Director Carrie Hanson and The Seldoms were joined in this project by a team of talented collaborators: playwright Stuart Flack, visual artist Bob Faust, sound artist Mikhail Fiksel, costume designer Jeff Hancock, lighting designer Julie Ballard, video artist Liviu Pasare, and historian Michael J. Kramer, who deliver a rich, multifaceted exploration of the topic.
In Power Goes, power in all its guises emerges through the interplay of dance with other forms: spoken word, sound design with pieces of recorded Johnson and Obama side by side, rich scenography including video projection of historic images and an installation of a wall of 75 suspended chairs. But most of all, the topic of power arrives through physicality – The Seldoms’ signature ensemble work, which combines gestural precision with humor, athleticism, and sheer force and energy to remind us how much bodies can impart to us about how power goes.
"Power is responsibility and obligation to do better for others and ourselves."
POWER AND PHYSICALITY
It may seem unlikely at first to explore the topic of power by bringing dance and the complicated figure of President Lyndon Johnson together in one piece, but it is fitting. LBJ's mastery of political power was fundamentally linked to his physical presence. Most famously, he employed what became known as the "Johnson Treatment", in which he would lean his body into other politicians when seeking to intimidate or cajole them. And he was a master of the tactile, whether in the cloakrooms of Washington insider politics or the campaign trail. In his life, he placed his hands firmly on many people, he clutched, controlled and wielded his power over them. Incidentally, he also loved to dance.
BODIES ON THE GEARS WORKSHOP
Power Goes is not only a performance, but also a platform for thought and discussion. Each engagement includes a "Bodies on the Gears" workshop that invites students and/or community participants to explore questions raised by the piece, including issues of power, politics, negotiation, conflict, cooperation, justice, civil rights, and social change. The workshop draws inspiration from New Left icon Mario Savio's call to put one’s body on the gears of the "machine" of power in protest against injustice and dehumanization. It uses dance and movement as avenues into both the history and continued relevance of how bodies assemble, move, resist, protest, change, and struggle. The workshop culminates in the inclusion of workshop participants and the material they have created in a section of Power Goes onstage.