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Saturday, September 11, 2021

I despaired over not finding a date for yesterday evening’s performance of Melt, an avant-garde dance/theatrical performance taking place in lower Manhattan:

Eight dancers perched on a wall and wrapped in sculptural beeswax and lanolin costumes are slowly melting away, progressing in euphoria and exhaustion as if approaching the sun, melting until their souls escape their ephemeral bodies and disintegrate into light.

But, when I settled in for the show, I was glad I hadn’t roped anyone into tagging along. Because I probably would have gotten an earful about the lack of seating. By which I mean, there was no seating. By which I mean, I was sitting, Indian-style, on the ground. And since this was an outdoor performance, directly under the Manhattan Bridge and right next to a massive industrial-salt pile, it was concrete I was sitting on.

Not that I minded. It was only a half-hour of squatting, and the action on the “stage” (really a stone-slab wall with metal perches) kept me enraptured enough that I didn’t notice any discomfort. A companion probably only would have reminded me of the lack of proper butt-parking.

As for the show itself, well, I was always a sucker for ultra-intepretive stage expression:

In “Melt” the women tip from side to side, stretch and weave their limbs, and bend forward, down or stretch up. Though they don’t move in unison, they generally change tempo together (as in Merce Cunningham choreography, this gives the impression of a flock of birds all reacting together to the same noise or change of breeze). But now and then one or more individuals undercut the group with a different trend…

A few arm movements suggest wings in flight. Mainly, though, the choreography suggests passivity. Nothing registers more than the way the dancers frequently turn their faces to one side, close their eyes as if avoiding the glare and open their mouths as if craving air.

Despite the obvious Icarus analogy with the beeswax, I found myself wondering if the long, draped lanolin strands from the dancers’ costumes truly represented trailing wings, or really were earth-bound tendrils. The sensation of flight was counteracted by the performers’ actual fixed location.

It was definitely enjoyable. Had it gone on any longer, I think it would have lost some impact, at least in the wordless format it displayed. And not once was I tempted to disobey the signs off to the side, that warned to “not touch the salt”. So I was satisfied, for a Friday night.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 09/11/2021 07:56pm
Category: Creative, New Yorkin'
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