Intelligent Design: Eliot Feld Responds to a Steve Reich Score


In the foreground, the Juilliard Percussion Ensemble, ready to grapple with Steve Reich’s 1971 ecstatic steady-pulse Drumming. Dominating the background, Mimi Lien’s huge wooden sculptural precipice. After the four drumbeats that initiate the score are struck, Juilliard’s svelte, heroic dancers appear one by one at the top of the structure and start sliding down—flat on their backs, feet first—in improbably slow motion. Upon touching bottom, they stand to ascend their Everest, then repeat the sequence again and again. With his latest obsessive, equipment-based work, Sir Isaac’s Apples, Eliot Feld makes the laws of gravity visible—and thrilling. The initial configurations expand and escalate into new positions in the falling and rising, complex groupings, and varied speeds. The feat is Sisyphean; the calm, Olympian. Abetted by the hypnotic effect of the music, the dance seems to offer a God’s-eye view of a human colony persevering in a faraway landscape.