Heidi, with foam
Yvonne Meier returns Mad Heidi and Limpopo to the stage, fused by foam, cabbages, and fearless dancing.
By SOPHIE ERNST
Downtown dance veteran Yvonne Meier's work often includes the use of eccentric and elaborate props; past pieces have incorporated a maze of hundreds of cardboard refrigerator boxes and collapsing shelves of china. In Mad Heidi, part I & Limpopo, I & II Meier lines the risers at Danspace with blue tarps covered with cabbages. Later, walnuts spray the floor. Forks are dragged with fishing line before being flung as darts into a foam board. And speaking of foam, three giant rolls of tied-up foam padding fly around the stage, propelled by two expert foam riders, skidding, upending and threatening the footlights. And we haven't even gotten to the dirt box yet.
All of this would suggest that Meier's focus lies on the theatricality of her pieces rather than the movement. To the contrary, Meier's obsession is movement deep, risky, headlong movement that demands total physical commitment, even, and especially, when things get uncomfortable or dangerous. This is where Meier's prop fetish becomes integral to her pieces: she creates complex, challenging environments through the use of props, which require her dancers to take risks beyond those inherent in her full-bodied movement scores. The effect is riveting, if sometimes terrifying, and operates on a level of purposeful sensory overload.
|Choreography by: Yvonne Meier.|
Dancers: Ishmael Houston-Jones, Jennifer Monson, Osmany Tellez, Antonietta Vicario.
St. Mark's Church, 131 E. 10th St.
Jan. 20-23, 2005
An evening length piece, Mad Heidi, part I & Limpopo, I & II is actually a combination of two pieces, both previously premiered. However, except for the separate cast lists, it's difficult to see the seams where they've come together, so thoroughly has Meier meshed the two into a strange, sometimes madcap, often melancholy exploration of Meier's native Switzerland.
The piece is book ended by a combative, comical duet between Meier and Ishmael Houston-Jones. Before the lights have dimmed Houston-Jones tries to free himself from a mesh of packing tape that holds him to the floor like a fly in a spider's web. Once the lights go out, the sound of tape-covered feet squeaks and crackles over a metallic sound score Meier, with her lower arms and legs covered with tape, sticky side out. She rolls, making the tape smack and stick to the floor. Houston-Jones replies with the sound of tape being ripped off the floor as he frees himself. He catches his tape around hers and they twist and roll, stuck together.
The bulk of the piece is from Mad Heidi, with longtime Meier collaborator Jennifer Monson wriggling into the skin of the Alpine heroine. Monson is a wonderful performer, her alert, blunt-nosed face as capable of projecting a broad range of emotions as her powerful, fearless body. She appears first sliding down a rope from the balcony above the stage, looking spry and determined in a red dress with a flowered apron and black ankle boots. She jumps to the floor as bells ring and a fluty Swiss folk song begins. She stamps, a mad country parlor dance to a quick waltz, both playful and angry.
| ||The effect is riveting, if sometimes terrifying, and operates on a level of purposeful sensory overload.|
Heidi's descent into madness occurs in pieces. Her heels begin to tap uncontrollably, she runs and kicks off one boot high in the air, then runs with one shoe around the sanctuary, leaping and spinning until she falls to the floor. She unties the remaining boot, slowly this time, her face pained, as if we don't know all that she's been through.
And indeed we don't. Deliberately and methodically Monson slips off her underwear and then her dress and dives naked into a large wooden box of dirt. She disappears momentarily, and then remerges, throwing handfuls of dirt over herself, suggesting a demented underside to the healthy, squeaky-clean image of a pastoral and pristine Switzerland.
Towards the end, when the foam riders, Osmani Tellez and Antonietta Vicario in fuzzy hooded vests, careen about like thrill-seeking body surfers, when the stage is littered with walnuts and forks, and Monson cracks a whip as Meier and Houston-Jones grate cabbages with cheese graters in the background, a feeling of exhaustion descends. For a moment it is enough just to take in the material carnage Heidi has left in her wake.
|FEBRUARY 1, 2005|
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