From March 22 through 25, Danspace presents Risa Steinberg at St. Mark’s Church, performing solos spanning modern dance history from Isadora Duncan to Ann Carlson. Although she danced for 11 years with José Limón, Steinberg admits, “I thought of myself as a Graham dancer. I viewed everything through Graham eyes. Then I had a back injury and they told me I could never do Graham again.”
Since 1986, she’s been dancing solos choreographed by others. “Isadora Duncan’s Bacchanale is circa 1907; [Anna Sokolow’s] Kaddish is 1946; Choreographic Offering is José, 1964; Mark Morris’s solo Bijoux is 1983.” Eight in all. A long program?
“No. Bacchanale is only three minutes long, [Doris Humphrey’s] Two Ecstatic Themes is six. When it’s a solo, you are the story from beginning to end. It’s extraordinary what Wrath [by Eleanor King] can say in four minutes. Mind-boggling! The more contemporary they are, the longer the dances get.”
The premiere, It’s Too Beautiful a Day by Carlson, marks Steinberg’s first onstage speaking. She commissioned the piece, she says, “because there’s so much movement in my concert; I wanted to show another aspect of where dance has gone in America.” Inspired by a post-concert Q&A of Steinberg’s and a radio interview with Sister Helen Prejean, author of Dead Man Walking, Carlson had Steinberg layer descriptions of her daily routine with quotes from Prejean about witnessing her first execution. The juxtaposition is an emotional kick in the gut. “I wear a dress made of the American flag,” says Steinberg. “It’s funny—I hope. And sad. It feels very naked.”