The house looks like a Norman Rockwell painting: quintessential Americana, rocking chair included. Step inside, however, and you begin an interactive journey through a dance performance that leads you to the four corners of the heart.
4Chambers by the Jody Oberfelder Dance Project is “a sensorial journey into the human heart” and presents an opportunity to literally step into the world of that rhythmic organ, and therefore dance.
Funded by a Kickstarter campaign and free to the public, this intimate installation transforms the rooms and corridors of Officers’ House #15 on NYC’s Governors Island into the arterial pathways and insulated chambers of the heart. The small audience is ushered through the performance by six dancers who silently guide the audience from room to room. It leaves one feeling cared for, catered to, loved.
The dancing is interspersed with short videos that inspire both a rational and emotional connection to the functions of our circulatory system. The physical description of how blood flows through the heart—hand gestures indicating the pattern—is a witty pantomime dance unto itself. The video and live performance strikes a balance between thinking and feeling, mind and body.
But the most compelling thing about 4Chambers is the interactive component. Once inside the draped interior of the house, the dancers take audience members by the hand, and sometimes by the heart, to encourage participation. As a dancer, I was comfortable dropping straight into a game of contact improvisation, but I also found myself holding back, respectful of the dancers’ dance, watching and waiting for the next invitation. For my non-dancer friend, it meant exploring uncharted territory as he found himself “in” the dance, interacting rather than observing.
For the dancers, this component means that each show is different, requiring a careful gaging of the audience’s reactions. At the preview I attended, they made sure the audience/participants felt nurtured and safe, until the the body-flinging finale demanded each dancer place an audience member’s hand over their pounding heart. In a heartbeat, two rhythms race to find a common ground, a common pulse, and in a very short space of time I had, for a moment, unconditionally connected with another person’s heart.