- The Washington Times - Friday, November 26, 2004

NEW YORK — Meredith Monk’s music was in good hands, as six choreographers paid tribute to the versatile artist at St. Mark’s Church on Nov. 19.

Organized by Laurie Uprichard, Danspace Project’s executive director, “Dance to Monk: Choreographers Celebrate the Music of Meredith Monk” kicked off a year of events marking 40 years of work by the award-winning Ms. Monk as choreographer, filmmaker, installation artist and more.

But the night was all about her music, as interpreted by Molissa Fenley, Sean Curran, Doug Varone, Dana Reitz, Ann Carlson and Bill T. Jones.

As Ms. Fenley ended “Piece for Meredith” with Ashley Brunning and Cassie Mey, a woman’s voice called “Come in, come in.”

If only we could — both Ms. Monk’s richly textured vocal and instrumental compositions and the understated choreography presented at Danspace revealed worlds, at once familiar and strange, that beg exploration.

Dressed in tank tops and loose, cropped pants of crushed velvet, Ms. Fenley, Ms. Brunning and Ms. Mey entered with hands clasped. Though the trio soon split, they returned to each other often, placing a palm on a shoulder or linking hands to form a circle like Matisse’s famous dancer cutouts.

As often occurs in Ms. Fenley’s work, the three seemed always to be skirting the perimeters of invisible, shifting fault lines on the floor. Their trajectories flowed along and between the whispers and percussive lines of “line 3 and prisoner” and “woman at the door” from Ms. Monk’s latest album, “Mercy.”

In his solo titled after Ms. Monk’s “St. Petersburg Waltz,” the bearded Mr. Curran cut a dashing and mysterious figure in F.V. Grzyb’s derby, vest and dress pants. Led by the piano’s shifting tempo, he stepped and hopped around the room, often clasping his hands as if in supplication or thanks.

The simple, vertical choreography implied a complex story, with Mr. Curran as hero, villain or both.

Dancers’ roles were similarly ambiguous in “Flesh,” Ms. Carlson’s futuristic parable on man and machine. The work was performed by AXIS Dance Company, which integrates dancers with and without disabilities.

Ms. Monk’s “Engine Steps” filled St. Mark’s with a rhythmic, industrial pulse as two rows of nine light bulbs along the church’s balcony brightened in intensity. Five dancers lay sprawled around Judith Smith and Renee Waters, both in wheelchairs.

A pair of videos bookended the evening, starting with kooky footage of Canadian synchronized swimmers Fanny Letourneau and Claire Carver-Dias, who performed to Ms. Monk’s “Dolmen Music,” “Plague” and “The Tale” at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia.

Bill T. Jones’ video homage to Ms. Monk concluded the evening. Titled after her “Do You Be,” the short piece was both touching and cheeky, as images of Mr. Jones’ naked, muscular frame, held in heroic positions, bled over his clothed form.

Afterward, the performers and a tearful Ms. Monk received an extended standing ovation. Thankfully, there will be much more Monk to enjoy in the coming months.

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