The Seldoms: Power Goes

A landmark dance theater work from the Seldoms, Power Goes is choreographer Carrie Hanson’s rich and astute study of power. Turning to the legacy of President Lyndon Baines Johnson and the tumultuous era of the 1960s as a starting point for inquiry, the piece uses movement and the body to investigate how power is wielded to create—or block—social change. A stellar team of multimedia collaborators join the Seldoms to offer explosive, muscular physicality, keen wit, and total-environment staging in this exhilarating exploration of what power is and how it works.

Stuart Flack: The Seldoms are a dance-theater company.

Carrie Hanson: It’s an artist led organization, a band of primarily dancers.

Mikhail Fiksel: It’s about LBJ – couldn’t figure out how one would do dance piece about LBJ but eventually started seeing some material and got roped into it.

Bob Faust:Power Goes is a performance piece, it’s a rich theatrical multimedia experience.

CH: The title, Power Goes, comes from a quote of Johnson’s. He would often say "power is where power goes."

BF: Power is something that all of us love and desire and need; it’s also the thing that we’re all afraid of and we’re just using LBJ and his presidency as kind of the place to start this conversation. It’s about how one wields power and uses power in order to make something change.

CH: In Power Goes you’re seeing a lot of one-on-one interaction, a lot of duetting.

SF: Dance, it’s movement-based and it’s so emotional – exploring power in both its verbal and physical interpersonal manifestations.

CH: Rather than thinking about making a dance-like phrase material and bringing that in teaching that to my dancers, we have spent more time in this project thinking about constructing a situation where two bodies or one body and several bodies are sort of somewhat against or opposed to one another.

MF: LBJ had a great storytelling aspect to him. He loved telling stories and we were interested in exploring that sort of folksy side to him. We sampled the recordings of him telling stories and I would literally create a melody based on his introduction to every story so it was both melodies and his words became this sort of collage and multi-layered musical composition.

[audio clip of LBJ composition]

SF: It’s just so astonishing and revealing of the man but also revealing of the kind of humanity of the whole thing.

BF: I remember in particular one rehearsal that I went to and I said, "Hey, what if we used chairs as the entire set?" A bunch of chairs that are the backdrop for this whole thing because they could represent sit-ins, they could represent Congress, they could represent a community coming together—everybody’s voice on stage at once.

MF: From the very beginning it poses an idea that politics is not that boring or that dry. That it is in itself a dance. LBJ was surprisingly very skilled at dancing, at very different conversation or situation. The same way the dancers are manipulating their bodies each other’s bodies and so seeing a duet of two people shaping each other juxtaposing that with phone conversation of the president and a senator. Suddenly you realize oh, dancing is happening on both layers.

CH: We’ve got so many layers going on with video, with the installation, with the text and the sound. It was really important to us that this refer to contemporary politics and the political situation of stalemate I just realize that we really needed to go there, we really needed to go to that very dynamic, very anxious agitated, chaotic space.