She makes us aware of her joints, her limbs, slotting herself into unseen envelopes of space with silky precision. I sense her mapping something inside herself, rummaging through feelings and stories she’s not about to tell us. Every time she crosses one leg over the other or cocks her hip to meet her elbow or points a finger or takes several clunky steps, we’re mesmerized—happy to be mystified. Clearly, she knows what she’s doing, and whatever it is, it matters very much.

It’s a surprise when, near the end, she acquires a partner, Dennis O’Connor. He just walks in and starts dancing beside her. Why? Why not? I accept that, just as I accept the fact that although at the beginning of Suedehead, she, Vicky Shick, and Juliette Mapp stand facing one another—twisting their hands a bit, shifting from foot to foot—Shick and Mapp then leave and don’t return for a long time.

There’s a very strange episode near the beginning. Joe Levasseur’s lighting creates a yellow spot on the floor. Melnick looks down, smiles, gently picks something up, turns her back to us, and. . . Omigod, she’s ingested it. Then she walks, convulsing, uttering little vocal noises, as if she has swallowed a bird. Finally she gasps it out and goes back to dancing.

Jodi Melnick in her "Fanfare"
Paula Court
Jodi Melnick in her "Fanfare"

Details

Doug Varone and Dancers
Joyce Theater
February 24 through March 1
212-242-0800

Jodi Melnick
The Kitchen
February 19 through 21

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When the other two walk in again, they stand with their backs against a side wall, like friends waiting to be needed. For starters, Melnick does a handstand between them. Despite her recurrent despairing pose, these wonderful women link up with her, dance in unison with her, walk holding her hands. The steps get looser and bolder. Rarely does art venture into private catharsis so deeply, yet so subtly. At one point, Melnick lies on her back, and Mapp leans over and plucks something out of her. It’s small, like a hair, but maybe it’s immense. Maybe she’ll be all right now? Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold” is blazing out from Denis Roche’s score. “I’d cross the ocean for a heart of gold,” sings Young. Perhaps Melnick doesn’t have to travel that far.

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