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Flashback, 11-23: "Mercy"
Monk and Hamilton Find the Way
By Peggy Cheng
Copyright 2004 Peggy Cheng
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(Editor's Note: The
Dance Insider is revisiting its Archives. This piece originally appeared on December
NEW YORK -- Lead co-creators
Meredith Monk and Ann Hamilton's "Mercy," as seen last week at the
BAM Harvey Theater of the Brooklyn Academy of Music, was a deep
meditation on the capacity of people for displaying mercy. Do we
have the space in our lives, heads, and hearts for kindness and
compassion? Can we create the space for it? Limit it? Control it?
Sense it when it appears or disappears?
The answer that I heard
was a big, resounding "Yes!" in the form of a meditation -- a journey
in which many acts were explored, slowly but surely focusing in
on the subject and finally creating a sense of the serenity that
makes progress possible. The structure seemed simple and unburdened,
yet held a very pleasing depth. The play of space and where things
reach to in space -- sound and voices, bodies, light, images and
their various perspectives -- made me feel at once close and far
away from the performers and the performance.
And in fact, the interplay
of the elements put the performers and the audience both here and
there. Perspectives constantly changed: the image of a cavernous
mouth, when Ann Hamilton directed a tiny camera to Meredith Monk's
vibrating vocal chords, loomed across the back of the stage; bodies
danced in any number of configurations, scattering across the stage,
treading a direct path, marching joyfully and with purpose on the
diagonal, walking through us so that voices are heard among us,
nearing us, and leaving us. The interplay seemed to say that we
play with our own capacities -- we explore our possibilities to
see what we are capable of taking in, and then we are more able
of mind and heart.
Meditation is not an
even pulse, and "Mercy" has the capacity to erupt, too. A raucous
marching band paraded crosses the stage before us as 35 performers,
former workshop attendees with the artists, joined the ensemble
for this "big number." At another point, after a lone prisoner (Ching
Gonzalez) called out for mercy in his dark cell, the others re-joined
him in the space, going into perhaps the most dramatically physical
section of the piece, spinning with abandonment and force.
The lighting, at times
streaming and in pursuit, at other times kind, even subdued, was
beautifully designed by Noele Stollmack.
Meredith Monk (music),
Ann Hamilton (visual), and the collaborators, performers and musicians
(Theo Bleckmann, Alexandra Montano, Ching Gonzalez, Lanny Harrison,
Allison Sniffin, John Hollenbeck, and Bohdan Hilash) show us that
we may all be part of this world where mercy is many things, and
we may find that there is, in "Mercy," the serenity which may lead
to a more constant capacity for kindness and compassion.
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