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Flash Review 1, 6-20: Puzzled Delight
Riding the Pilger Line

By Peggy H. Cheng
Copyright 2000 by Peggy H. Cheng

Faith Pilger and Mazeppa (co-founded by Pilger and fellow band members Brian Kelly, Duncan Nielson, Andreas Ruggie, Steven Kane, and Evan Hause) brought "Riding the Blue Line" to HERE last night for a one-night-only performance. The evening was mainly a ride through the vivid imagination of Pilger, whose clarity of movement went a long way in filling out various vignettes layered with text, sound and music. I never did figure out what possible meaning the over-riding title of "Riding the Blue Line" could have: there is a missing link somewhere and I don't know if it's me. But until I began to write this Flash Review I really hadn't noticed the title at all. This is what I did notice...

"Riding the Blue Line" was in the small downstairs space of HERE, a stage seemingly more suited for the band than modern dance. However, the movement was not about the use of space: Pilger remained within a small box of space on the stage, with a background of amps and a drum set ready to roll in the second half, when the band joined her. Her solo dances were quite gestural, often repetitive, producing a picture of a character and the theme. The text, either spoken or sung, paralleled the movement, accents and dynamics following each other closely from movement to text.

The second half brought Mazeppa onto the stage, with Pilger fronting the band for the majority of the time as lead vocalist as well as character singer and dancer. It was during the second half that I began to sense a larger theme to Pilger's work. Earlier pieces had made fun of "Serial Barbie" (Pilger in short tight dress, high-pitched voice, and holding small knife overhead while rapping), and one song entitled "I'm not so good at being bad" was performed alternately with sweet innocence and bold forthrightness. Pilger went further with the theme of woman as passive/aggressive, sexual being and sexual object, perhaps building on the "Serial Barbie," until she appeared towards the end as the Virgin/Whore in "Virginity" and finally as a Hannibal Lechter-looking woman/prisoner with muzzle on face, wrists seemingly bound in "Do you have any Weapons??" This last song is about a woman whose strength, whose weapon, is her voice -- but she has been muzzled. The kind of puzzled delight which I was feeling came from an appreciation of Pilger's performance quality and willingness to inhabit these characters with movement. It's been a long time since I've gone to see a band, but this is a band to "see" and not just to hear.

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