Dance: A Solo by Molissa Fenley
Anna Kisselgoff, The New York Times
October 1, 1982
THE world is blowing up around us, Molissa Fenley reminds us obliquely in her latest, mind-boggling dance solo, ''Eureka.'' Nearly every moment is pushed to a physical extreme and every moment counts.
Miss Fenley does not execute a movement, she plunges into it. No one dances with her speed and whiplash stamina. Somehow she is telling us about the life and times we share with her. There are labels to pin on her -avant-garde with a spice of punk, ritual and the athletic. But none really tells her story. She is an original, exciting to watch and, more important, to sense.
At her opening Wednesday night at the Bessie Schonberg Theater, where she will perform this weekend and next Wednesday through Sunday, her physical appearance seemed to change constantly. She is the embodiment of the new feminine cult of physical fitness. Broad shouldered, arms held out, biceps glowing, she then slinks into the imagery of the glamorous fashion model. A second later, she is a waif, her mildly punk short hairdo now topping a demeanor that sheds its toughness. We see a figure striding with childlike determination, then running with the thrill of fresh-faced youth. When she rushes full face toward the audience and freezes as abruptly as Peter Gordon's music stops, the final film image of ''The 400 Blows'' springs to mind.
None of these musings should suggest that Miss Fenley is anywhere outside the the formalist experimental mold. When she burst upon the scene two years ago, with ''Energizer'' a piece for four women that was her major success, it was obvious that structures and a play upon variety within repetition were very important to her. Because she is now dancing alone in ''Eureka,'' the repetition and design of patterns are harder to follow than with a group. To keep tabs on her movement sequences - how often she uses them and in what order - is to lose the full sense of her singular contribution.
This is, it seems, the actual physical way her body moves. Her vocabulary is not as unknown as might appear. Identifiable steps, many from ballet, are visible but they are thoroughly transformed by her variances of speed, acceleration, change of rhythm and direction, and her unorthodox combinations of her rigid arms with virtuoso footwork. Miss Fenley is the equivalent of a music synthesizer. She ''treats'' the movement and transforms it into something new.
In this case, she is complemented by the commissioned score by Mr. Gordon, whose Love of Life Orchestra is considered elsewhere one of the leading exponents of the classical-rock fusion. The throbbing beat that was once Miss Fenley's trademark is now overlaid by melodies and textures that do not shy away from jazz sounds and Miss Fenley responds with a new dramatic imagery.
She calls her first section ''Will Powers,'' aptly named in view of its energy and endurance level and this is followed by ''Second Sight'' and ''Racial Memory.'' ''Eureka'' may refer to something one says in a bathtub or simply a town in California. Miss Fenley is very much a California girl (She studied at Mills). As she trips through her seamless collage of skips, leaps, steps, runs, turns, she could be running along a beach. Only the walls of the theater-studio seem to rein her in.