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2, 2-10: The Molissa Medley
Fenley Meditates on Gesture Texture
By Albert Lee
Copyright 2000 Albert Lee
soloist were in good form Wednesday at the Kitchen, where Molissa
Fenley presented three premieres--"Island," "Voices," and "Weathering"--and
a reworking of 1998's "On the Other Ocean." Fenley, known for her
soloist work, appeared with an impressive medley of collaborators,
including Foofwa d'Immobilite (ne Frederic Gafner), cellist Joan
Jeanrenaud (formerly of the Kronos Quartet), and the visual artist
for d'Immobilite, a former Merce Cunningham dancer, to perform the
opening solo "Island." Fenley is, like Cunningham, a formalizer
of movement and rhythm, an eschewer of theatrical themes. Not quite
a laboratory of movement, her choreography feels to me instead like
extended meditations on gesture texture. Raise the arm. Flex the
foot. Hop over here. Breathe. It's fun to watch. Mostly, the movements
keep comin' atchya-there aren't a lot pauses (except, notably, in
"Weathering," which has many).
By the way,
Fenley has a talent for arm curvature. Lord knows how she does it.
One simple movement creates oceans, or birds, or dissembled human
emotion. She's Yahweh-like. A lot of work goes into the arms. She's
crafted amazingly portentous attitudes and arabesques, too, but
- those arms!
In the breezy
"Island," the arms--Foofwa's, actually--channel avian intelligence.
D'Immobilite holds his at a forty-five degree angle to his side,
with wrists bent down. Then, unexpectedly, he inverts them above
his head, like a shrug or a preening male peacock's salute to the
opposite sex. The hands come washing down over his face (birdbath,
no doubt) and clap together in front of him (bird call!). Patti
Monson (playing an original score by Harold Meltzer) manages the
miracle of making her flute thrum and sing like Caribbean drums;
and Hopper's shimmering fish-scale sculpture, hung from wires, caught
and recast lighting designer David Moodey's moody reds, oranges,
and blues. The joy of art is also the joy of our arrogant imaginations,
but with "Island," Fenley gave us clues.
When "On the
Other Ocean" premiered in 1998 in Central Park, Fenley performed
it solo on a very big stage with a giant aqua-lit scrim billowing
majestically behind her. (A cool evening breeze came right on cue.)
She looked tiny, yet remarkably serene. On Wednesday, it was reworked
into a longer quartet for Kerry Ring, Paz Tanjuaquio, Heather Waldon,
and Meg Wolfe. The piece lost some kind of magic--communion a natura--in
the Kitchen space, but the quartet yielded a new focus on pattern
and rhythm. Performed in and out of unison and solo to three-person
horus, the piece was transformed by Fenley from a solo in a vast,
oceanic world into unfolding geometries. A flute, oboe, and synthesizer
hummed unchanging notes, creating a harmonium effect. Moodey, the
lighting designer, and David Behrman, who composed the music, deserve
half the credit for the dance's profoundly meditative quality.
"Weathering" were solo pieces performed by Fenley, in her rigorously
dissociative style, and accompanied by Jeanrenaud on cello. "Voices"
comprised variations on introspective dance and cello phrases. Sometimes
Fenley would reproduce the cellist's piccata--quick hops and turn
of the elbow--drawing out a delicate dialogue in sign language.
"Weathering"'s many pauses seemed to mark psychic interruptions;
Fenley would lift a foot, say, pause, then push further, less to
test physical limits than mental ones. The set, designed by Merrill
Wagner, comprised piles of ragged clothing on the floor and hanging
from wires. Yet there were no ghosts. Fenley danced as if the clothes
were not there, yet they leavened the movement--it was always in
relation to the clothes.
closed with 1989's "Provenance Unknown," an oscillating dance set
against the aural wallpaper of Philip Glass's "Metamorphosis" string
continues at the Kitchen through Saturday, February 19. "Escalay"
(with the "Ocean" quartet and Reginald Ellis Crump) and "I and you
resemble each other now" (with Nathan Balser and Kimberly Richardson)
replace "Voices," "Weathering, "and "Provenance Unknown" on some
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