Eyes That Dance

The earlier pieces delve into the body's workings. The briefest involves drinking a glass of water, sinking into a second position plié over a pail, and peeing—a tidy summation of our devouring/excreting essence. In Sunday Morning, May 1955 (1979), Mongrain simply jumps over and over to the sound of church bells, her miked breath rasping on after they stop. Mimas, Moon of Saturn (1981) elegantly transmutes the sensation of masturbation into a spine-tingling chant, with Prieur's long hair, dipped in a tub of water, lashing out a climactic fountain of fluid.

The choreographer usually sets clear premises and sticks to them. In a roar of sound, Prieur, wearing nipple rings and a black bird-tail, visits each of five hanging lamps, tapping out silent messages; the last lamp descends on her in a white blaze. One of the distinguishing characteristics of the terrifying 1986 S.T.A.B. (Space, Time and Beyond) is the sound Vanderborght generates: her miked boot stabbing the floor, her breath, her growl.

Couples' club: American Ballet Theatre in Twyla Tharp's latest
Couples' club: American Ballet Theatre in Twyla Tharp's latest


American Ballet Theatre
Metropolitan Opera
Through July 1

Trisha Brown Dance Company
Joyce Theater

Marie Chouinard
Joyce Theater

Chouinard constituted herself as a primal creature, a witch. Her famous 1987 Afternoon of a Faun refers to Nijinsky's ballet in its two-dimensional back-and-forth trips across the stage, but this creature's horn becomes a penis shoved into beams of light that frustrate her/him by disappearing. In Earthquake in the Heart Chakra, with blue face and breasts, Prieur is a fantastic ritual dancer. Uttering cryptic words like "Now is the time to dream of elephants," she places her hat on a cymbal stand, where it assumes its correct role as something to bash while red "flames" rise up and she screams and screams. Chouinard builds powerful art from the tension between transgressiveness and artful structures.

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