Expect the Unexpected

Choreographed by Jody Oberfelder, 4Chambers would be best described as a visual and physical sense of the heart's importance. The core of the performance piece centers around the beating heart — specifically its function, its literal purpose and its emotional capabilities. 4Chambers is both literally and figuratively a piece that will move the audience to feel things in more ways than one.

The journey begins with a gentle touch on the shoulders and a deep inhale. Oberfelder then leads you down a corridor which brings you into a dark room where a dancer places each audience member on the floor. A headache inducing kaleidoscope-like film of dancers slamming into walls and touching each others' chests is screened across the ceiling. Just when the video loops around to play for the third time, a dancer lifts you up and walks you into a white-walled room where they are greeted by the full ensemble.

Each participant is paired up with a dancer and taken on a journey through touch, dance and physical movement. This is the first time audience members experience Oberfelder's choreography in full effect by the whole cast. The dancing is heartfelt and passionate, but the movements at times felt awkward and stiff. There were moments where the dancers felt connected and there were other times where it felt jerky and forced. As a viewer, it was hard to stay fully immersed to the performance because of these moments.

Participants are then split into two groups. One room measures each person's heartbeat through his or her index finger and another room has tablets playing videos of the heart, arteries and veins. This portion of the piece was entirely disconnected from the rest of the chambers, and felt more like a museum tour rather than a "sensorial journey into the human heart," as described by Oberfelder. 

The latter parts of 4Chambers were by far the most innovative, thoughtful and artistic. Six chairs are placed in a white room that resembles an old bathroom. Each dancer places a blood pressure finger monitor on an audience member and a man projects against the wall and directly asks personal questions such as "is there anything in your life you regret?" or "was there a mistake you wish you could take back, and if yes, what was it?" Essentially, the six individuals placed in that room are complete strangers and yet are forced into an uncomfortable situation where the choices are to get comfortable or push the chance to be vulnerable away. There was something entirely humanistic, cathartic and touching about this specific part of the journey that left everyone feeling open and changed.

The piece ends with a dramatic dance performance in a room draped in red curtains, symbolizing a beating heart. The choreography and synchronicity in this particular dance were far more impressive than the former dance at the beginning of the show, but the problem with 4Chambers is particularity the choreography. While it definitely has its soft moments, there was an overload of unnecessary stomping, awkward transitions and ungraceful moves.

The performance as a whole was an experience like no other. It's the ensemble's responsibility to make you feel safe and entertained, but it's also the audience members' willingness to participate in the art that makes for a good show. There's nothing more moving than seeing and feeling physical intimacy which 4Chambers attained. Though it came up short in some areas, the overall experience was unexpected yet thrilling.

4Chambers plays at Arts@Renaissance (2 Kingsland Ave. at Maspeth Ave.) in Brooklyn through March 22. Performances are Thursday at 6:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. Regular tickets are $75 and available at https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/cal/50. For group buyout and limited student/artist tickets, e-mail dana@jodyoberfelder.com.

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