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    Complete archive, 1999-present

    2018-2019 reviews:


    Yin Mei

    Muddy waters

    Yin Mei's "Nomad: The River" takes a dream-like journey through complicated memories.


    Yin Mei dances the recurring dreams and memories that come back to haunt us. She creates beauty from unforgettable horror.

    Choreography by: Yin Mei.
    Dancers: Gaye Atay, Sonja Kostich, Pedro Osorio, Yin Mei.
    Lighting design by: Lea Xiao.
    Sound and Media Design: Christopher Salter.
    Dance Theater Workshop March 9-12

    Her "Nomad: The River" is about the Ganges and the Yellow River. Inhabitants of its banks have traditionally imbued the rivers with both healing and destructive powers. Yin applies this double edge to events in real life, sexual and/or violent. A horrific memory of an execution she witnessed serves as the foundation for "Nomad." Her journey in and around these inerasable memories is inexplicably coincident with natural phenomenon. A storm broke out and the thunder she heard took on significance. Was the execution a cruel injustice? In any case, the sound of thunder followed her for decades as a signpost in thinking and making art that speaks to moral issues.

    In a sort of scarf dance, squares of thin sheet metal are whipped overhead. 'Thunder claps' Yin calls them. They cut through the air catching the light with forboding suddenness, like lightning. The dancers cloak themselves in the squares (peaked at the top). They suggest the fearsome self-proclaimed messengers of God that resurface throughout history. One sheet is cut into a disc shape and held by Pedro Osorio frontally. Its 'banged' with bunches of flowers. The choreography of images and dancing bodies flows stream-of-conciousness style, and "Nomad," takes on the structure of a dream sequence.

    The choreography of images and dancing bodies flows stream-of-conciousness style, and "Nomad," takes on the structure of a dream sequence.  

    Dancers in gorgeous earthtone costumes with strips of bright blue and red tumble in puffs of activity; the colors combine like they do in a spin cycle or on a pinwheel turning at less than full speed. For Yin, sexuality encompasses both brutality and tenderness at once. Osorio rams his fist between Sonja Kostich's legs — a powerful metaphor also deployed in an excerpt of Yin's "Empty Tradition/City of Peonies" (I saw it at the October Fall for Dance but "City of Peonies" was seen at Jacob's Pillow in 1999.) Yin's pockets of dance-theater happening simultaneously on both sides of the stage are sometimes a stretch for our binocular vision.

    Chris Salter's fine abstract set is a moving receptacle of surprises, some happenstance. Several rows of curtains are hung from horizontal bars across the stage. The dancers walk between them. Their reflected image is just one in the changing scenario. Large Chinese characters based on Lao Tse's words fill the stage creating a pattern (for most of the audience it's just that). Plant-like forms flash and horizontal bands of light travel up and down the screens. Lea Xiao's lighting design undoubtedly plays an important role in the effect. The set and sound by Salter, and Xiao's lighting never call attention to themselves but serve the compelling danced 'narrative.' The elements are matched with sensitivity and poetry that takes time and immersion.

    "Nomad" was borne of improvised movement and after two years gestation, still felt a bit diffuse in this performance. But the open-ended structure befits its questioning theme. It's a journey. Yin's dances evolve, build and quote from earlier works. Each performance of "Nomad" is to some degree unique, and an intimate unspoken dialogue.

    In Noh masks at the end, the dancers faces are frozen in near-grotesque smiles as Osorio dusts them with yellow earth (green tea). The cloud of fallout appears noxious, but is actually fragrant.

    MARCH 18, 2005

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