From Player Piano to Steadicam

Feld Gets Misha to Kick Up His Heels; Greenberg's Gang Exercises Our Eyes; Meehan's Quiet Surprises


The weather in March is far less predictable than Nancy Meehan’s annual concerts at St. Mark’s Church. For 32 years, her works have bloomed modestly on the New York dance scene, immune to trends. Meehan is mistress of quiet surprises. In her dances, a community of women—always dressed identically by her artist husband, Anthony Candido—goes about its business. The women are gentle, alert—clear in their gestures and uniform in their behavior, even though they differ in age and size. Every now and then they erupt into speed, like a mannerly flock of feeding birds suddenly taking wing. Their air of virtuous sensuousness gives them the look of priestesses tending a shrine of dance.

Meehan is adroitly three-dimensional in her use of space and subtly dynamic in her approach to time. To begin her 2001 Timings, for instance, three women squat head to head; a little distance away, two others do the same. A sixth woman stands leaning against a pillar. The five rise and walk on tiptoe, holding hands. As they separate and continue in various directions, the sixth unobtrusively joins in. Suddenly they jump, taking off in weighted leaps, and one cartwheels to be caught and held, feet in the air, by the others. You become intensely aware of the space, as if the motion has made it quiver. Meehan has sensitive collaborators in addition to Candido. No one can make the church glow quite so beautifully as resident lighting designer Carol Mullins. Eleanor Hovda provides spare, evocative music—mostly with delicate percussion that includes the strings of a piano. She has created some wonderful scores for Meehan; those for the three dances on this bill were even more minimal—in some cases barely audible.

The premiere, Unconscious Conversations, is more energetic than Timings but no less calm. Because density is not a feature of Meehan’s textures, each movement stays in your mind. You will not forget the women walking (again on tiptoe), heads wobbling gently, or the way they pick up one leg and cradle it, or their curious advance, bent slightly forward and rubbing their buttocks with the backs of their hands. Occasionally they unite in a project, like lining up beside a fallen companion and making her roll by stamping their feet. In this piece, five of the women (Ann Chiaverini, Erin Crawley Woods, Jm Leary, Frances Rosario-Puleo, Corinne Sarian, and Kate Taylor) execute brief solos and become a little more knowable.

I found Feet on a Wooden Plane the richest in its interplay of concerted, ritualistic moments and sudden flurries. There’s a lovely passage when two women walk around two fallen colleagues, outlining them with their feet, and another when five of the dancers stand shoulder-to-shoulder and a sixth walks along the line, nudging a foot experimentally between each as she goes. You might think you could doze off in such tranquillity, but you can’t.

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