The Daily Gazette, October 10, 2005

‘Decay of the Angel’ is eloquent, transcendent
Maureen Fleming's solo performance inspires awe, Joy

by WENDY LIBERATORE
Gazette Reporter

TIVOLI — When it comes to Maureen Fleming, words are truly inadequate.

In every performance, including those this past weekend at Kaatsbaan International Dance Center, the Butoh dancer is so eloquent, so beautiful and so mysterious that she leaves her audience breathless and in awe.

On her third visit to the Hudson Valley haven for dance, Fleming once again suspended time. She also struck down our beliefs about the limitations of the human body and what it can convey.

FULL OF EMOTION

Moving at a painfully slow pace, this naked dancer reaches inside of herself to draw out essential truths, those that we have suppressed, but long to reconnect with. And when we recognize these truths, we are either brought to tears or leap in elation.

She has that power.

It's not often that one can be so excited by a dancer/ choreographer—especially one who performs solo. It seems that everything has been tried, and thus is derivative. And when a soloist performs, dancing tends to turn monotonous quickly.

Not so with Fleming. With her classical and Butoh training, she is a unique creature, skirting the rim of the otherworldly. Seeing her is like watching a phoenix rise from the ashes. You know you saw it, but you keep asking yourself, “Can it be real?”

On Sunday, Fleming danced her "Decay of the Angel," a work that speaks of loss, fear and redemption. It's a multimedia creation with video by Jeff Bush and Hiroshi Onihiro, photographs by Lois Greenfield with music by Philip Glass, Arvo Part and Henryk Mikolaj Gorecki.

NOTHING HIDDEN

With other dancers, it often happens that layers of video and photographs are used to mask weak choreography. Not here. She could strip away these ornamentations and still ingratiate herself with her viewers. Yet these bits meld to create an atmosphere that transports the audience and then transforms her.

The piece opens with Fleming in flight, spiraling head first toward the ground. She is a fallen angel who cannot halt her descent.

As the theater goes black, the sound of the ocean roars. And she reappears upstage on a plateau. She has landed and looks to be reborn—more human, more feminine, more vulnerable. She then contorts her body into iconic images of woman—religious and mythological. As she twists in a full back bend with one perfect leg reaching to the stars, she looks to be boneless. Obviously, her instrument is fully at her command.

In another section, she kneels with her head held high in strong breeze. With a red light illuminating her, she looks as if she is confronting an altar of fire.

RISING UP

At another point, she rises from a pool of water, purified and refreshed. And finally, she takes flight again with her white wings beating against the wind. What Fleming does resonates. Truly, though, words cannot describe either her or her art. She must be seen to be believed.

Reach Gazette reporter Wendy Liberatore at 395-3199 or at [email protected]