Free to Be?

Jill Sigman/Thinkdance's new solo (WAX, March) reviewed the premises and promises of feminism. With a title, Vision Begins, that subtly implies unfinished business, Sigman invited audiences into her uncertainty. Presented with Warbody—a cheeky, disturbing installation about military glamour—Vision Begins collaged movement, video, cheesy pop music, sound clips, stories, satirical rap, and chant, all of this deliberately moving in and out of alignment and coherence. Sigman is riveting—an elf with the rebelliousness of the '60s avant-garde, the piscine fluidity of a Tharp dancer, and the charisma and athleticism of today's virtuosos. She's as wacky and hyperactive as the love-struck pigeon who once courted her—don't ask—and at one point she nearly perched on my shoulder while gushing about Hillary Clinton. The solo entertained, unsettled, and provoked thought and feelings—everything its brilliant creator intended.

I fell hard for Yara Arts Group in 2000 when I saw Circle, their nearly hallucinogenic Buryat Siberian wedding party. They returned to La MaMa E.T.C. in March with an earthier new work, Howling, based in Mongolia's shamanic legends and rendered in lyrical and overtone singing; folk, ritual, and contemporary dance movement; and video. A young hunter (resonant-voiced Eunice Wong) slays a wolf only to find herself forced to endure initiatory trials. Attacked by her prey, then goaded to run to the point of exhaustion, and finally rebirthed by and mated with a wolf, she sparks her own Inner Wolf, reconciling with her true clan. Sometimes the troupe stepped in and out of mythic time; a trio of witty American homegirls boogied down to the roar of frame drums, alternately floating on a folksinger's liquid melody. At the end, the video screen suddenly filled with silhouettes of real wolves loping over snow, and my eyes filled with tears.

 
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