Resurrecting History for Today's Audiences
Lizzie Simon, The Wall Street Journal
September 30, 2013
Photo © Taylor Crichton
Molissa Fenley and Company this week at New York Live Arts premiere a new dance, "Found Object," and resurrect three of its seminal pieces, 1980's "Energizer," 1989's "The Floor Dances" and 1993's "Witches' Float."
"The reconstructions for me have been really fascinating," Ms. Fenley said. "They're all part of my history."
Choreography isn't the only thing that had to be reconstructed. Her costume designer, Jill St. Coeur, painstakingly remade garments. To restore the original reel-to-reel audio tapes, music conservator Maggi Payne baked them in a food dehydrator, an unlikely, elaborate method that can make decades-old analog recordings play like new. Now, Ms. Fenley said, "It sounds like it was made yesterday."
In "The Floor Dances" and "Witches' Float," Ms. Fenley worked with the sculptors Richard Long and Kiki Smith, respectively. "I found it fascinating to make solo pieces with other objects floating in the space," she said. "It would shift my vocabulary. It made every piece separate and different. I was able to expand my choreographic range that way."
From an audience perspective, she said, what's most compelling about the pieces is their physicality, not their back story. "It's great to know something about the artist, to have an intellectual understanding, but on the other hand there's the pure impact of the physical object. The great thing about dance is that there is this impact possibility."