Cheaper (2003)

Cheaper, a sequel to Sperling’s hit solo Cheap, is a fun, bendy duet. It’s crammed with rubbery tricks stolen from across genres, including circus acrobatics, side-show contortion acts, techno-pop, hip-hop, toe-tap, yoga, and more. As the dancers’ limbs get entangled, Michelle Ferranti’s striped costumes aid in the visual confusion of body parts. Chiappetta’s music combines groovy rhythms with rackety clanks. (17 minutes)

CHOREOGRAPHY: Jody Sperling / DANCERS: Ashley Sowell & Jody Sperling
MUSIC: Quentin Chiappetta / COSTUMES: Michelle Ferranti

“Sperling has also created more postmodern dances that develop and render explicit some of Fuller’s underlying thematic elements. In her witty duet Cheaper, for example, Sperling and another dancer (Ashley Sowell) perform tumbling gymnastics and  yoga poses while ‘borrowing’ each other’s limbs. That is, they interweave their arms and legs in such a way that spectators looking at a two-woman ‘handstand,’ for example, cannot discern whose legs are flying up into the air and whose arms are bearing their combined body weights. Costumed in horizontally striped cotton suits (a kind of cross between ‘onesies’ babies wear and cartoon prison garb), the dancers tumble and cavort like characters from a Buster Keaton movie, while occasionally moving through intimate, twisting embraces that suggest a lesbian erotics. In this way, Cheaper overtly develops a number of tacit themes in Fuller’s work: the broad comedy of vaudeville and cabaret, the notion of ‘prosthetically’ extending the capacity of the dancer’s limbs (achieved here via the use of a second dancer’s limbs rather than batons), and a subtle blend of childlike innocence (the women clown around with each other in their absurd costumes) and a woman-centered sexuality.” -Rhonda Garelick, from her book Electric Salome (Princeton University Press, 2007), p.226

“Next we venture into a bawdy physical comedy routine with the acrobatic and witty Cheaper. Sperling and Ashley Sowell, clad in Ferranti’s bold pink and purple striped gymnastic tunics, perform a series of rather daring physical feats. They also manage to tie themselves and each other into knots — and these are not the kind of knots into which Balanchine wished to tie his leggy dancers. Sperling is highly experimental here, and tests the limits of the body, bending a leg up as high as it will go, cranking limbs every which way. Quentin Chiappetta’s music provides hilarious sound effects for the physical antics — a creaky door, popping, whistling, sirens, plates crashing. Sperling and Sowell also one-up each other. When Sowell performs her “strong-man,” or should I say, “strong-woman,” routine — holding her body weight up on her arms, curving her legs up and over her body so that they touch the top of her head — Sperling performs a bit of pointe shoe toe tapping. To say Sowell is strong is an understatement. The piece is witty and fun and rounds out Sperling’s movement style.”– Vanessa Manko, Dance Insider

“A quirky sequel to Sperling’s 1999 piece, Cheap. This time, she pairs with Ashley Sowell, generating an urban set of cocky contortions rendered comical by Quentin Chiappetta’s score—a tangle of springs, kazoos and noise pollution. Cheaper frolics like the pages of a Dr. Seuss story. Wrapped in Michelle Ferranti’s striped grape leotards, Sperling and Sowell squirm together like black belt yoga instructors. Oh, the places they’ll go.” –Alexa James, Philadelphia City Paper


photos by Julie Lemberger