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Flash Review 1, 1-25: She Came, She Slaw, She Conquered
Alpine Madness from Yvonne Meier

By Gus Solomons jr
Copyright 2005 Gus Solomons jr

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NEW YORK -- Yvonne Meier's "Mad Heidi, Part I" and "Limpopo, I and II" took some of us down memory lane, back to when this Swiss miss was throwing herself around all over downtown dance, as one of its premiere -- and wildest -- improvisers. At Danspace Project at St. Mark's Church, January 20-23, Meier restaged "Heidi," this time with Bessie award-winning uber-improviser Jennifer Monson performing it. And those in the opening night audience who hadn't seen the 1997 original loved it too. Meier conjures up wildly imaginative images and situations for her expert performers to respond to.

As Carol Mullins's whimsical lighting rises to a dim level on a prelude to "Heidi," Meier squats in the shadows and Ishmael Houston-Jones, who's strapped to the floor with packaging tape, begins to stir as if he's rising from the dead, creating loud crackles as the tape tears from the wood floor. The two cavort briefly, mysteriously, in the mottled twilight before darkness falls.

When lights restore, Monson climbs down a rope from the balcony, wearing a red dress and hiking boots, and clomps around the space to Swiss folk songs, yodeling, and ticking cuckoo clocks. Monson alternates slow restraint with wild abandon; she hurtles back and forth through space like a dinghy on a stormy sea; she repeatedly hurls herself to the ground and rolls; she sprints in a big circle, losing a shoe. Then, she strips naked, climbs into a crate of dirt, and wallows in it.

While Monson thrashes around in the crate of earth, Antonietta Vicaro and Osmani Tellez, both wearing fake-fur hooded vests, roll out three giant rolls of foam rubber for "Limpopo." The two resilient dancers proceed to fling themselves onto the foam bales and roll off in innumerable ways. The excitement of their reckless near collisions builds, while the barrel of fun they're having makes you want to dive in.

After "Limpopo I," Monson emerges from the dirt and dons a skirt that's packed with something weighty. As she spins, the load shifts and gradually spills out a bushel of walnuts, which fly all over the floor. Naked, she dances suggestively with the handle of a broom, and then, dressed in a shift, she jumps rope, and tosses forks at a foam board, trying to impale it.

"Limpopo II" returns with more bouncing off the foam, while Monson cracks a lion-tamer's whip, and Houston-Jones and Meier begin to grate the 50 heads of cabbage that have been sitting on the upstage risers throughout, teasing us with the potential of Cole slaw. Meier's whimsical insanity remains as trenchant as it was in 1997.

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