Steps, Back and Forth, Into a New Comfort Zone
Molissa Fenley’s ‘Cross Bridge’ at The Club at La MaMa
Brian Seibert, The New York Times
December 12, 2012
Photo © Julieta Cervantes
For the collaboration “Cross Bridge” the choreographer Molissa Fenley and her colleagues ventured outside their comfort zones in approaching one another. Dancers spoke. An actress danced. But the work, which had its debut last weekend at the Club at La MaMa, began and ended with proven strengths.
Those strengths were the lucid dancing of Ms. Fenley and the former Merce Cunningham dancer Holley Farmer. Their bookending duets, like many of Ms. Fenley’s dances, gave the impression of classical statuary come to life, arcs in motion. Silence directed attention to the relationship between feet and the floor, deliberate and secure yet also swooshingly sensuous. The relationship between the two women was similarly assured yet delicate, as they executed many of the same steps with individual timing, coming in and out of sync.
Since the audience was seated along one long side of the theater’s shallow rectangle, when the women separated, you had to swivel your head from one to the other, as in a tennis match seen from up close. It was a difficult choice. Ms. Farmer’s dancing was more expansive and unfailingly lovely; she had the higher leg extensions, the softer curves, the brighter smile. But Ms. Fenley, with her knife-sharp definition, pushed the twisting of the spine to more arresting extremes and astringent angles.
In the first of Ms. Fenley’s duets with the actress Rosemary Quinn, Ms. Quinn spoke while Ms. Fenley danced. The text, by John Jesurun, addressed memory and advised not wasting it on music. Later Ms. Quinn joined Ms. Fenley for a mirroring dance of Egyptian flatness and later still the two women moved together while having a conversation that was mannered in its informality: “You should eat more.” “How’s your foot?”
In the projected rehearsal videos (also by Mr. Jesurun) interspersed throughout the work Ms. Quinn taught choreography to Ms. Fenley and vice versa, though Ms. Fenley’s corrections were (unsurprisingly) much more precise. When the two women repeated their mirroring duet onstage while a rehearsal of it played, the different timings of the two pairs hinted at the layerings of memory.
But the final effect of Ms. Quinn’s simplified dancing and Ms. Fenley’s somewhat stilted speaking was in between in the weak sense. When Ms. Quinn, on video, accompanied the live dancing of Ms. Fenley by reciting movement instructions — left, right, forward, back — as if they were a ruminative soliloquy, the combination was stronger, yet the text and choreography generally slipped past each other.
The video, with its close-ups of body fragments, was most useful as an intriguing resting point for the eye passing from Ms. Fenley to Ms. Farmer. The mix worked best in a solo for Ms. Farmer. Calmly she repeated, without ever quite finishing, a “how was your day?” story about trying to cross a bridge in a car after Hurricane Sandy.
As she blew kisses with her fingers and slowly torqued her body into gorgeous positions, the talk increased the sense of concentration, the suggestion that this difficult beauty was quotidian for her. But it was her dancing, in the end, that stayed in one’s memory.