by Ugo Volli
Once upon a time there was a curious and multicolored space between theater and dance: a territory of accidental boundary and little supervised by the various cultural police. This unpopulated land, divided by a border characteristic only of European theater civilization, had remained almost abandoned to itself for a very long time, when at the threshold of the Seventies it was colonized by many tribes of artistic travelers: theater troupes fascinated by the unity of oriental theater-dance, dancers annoyed by abstract canons and by the conventionality of their an form, postmodern performers anxious to give emotional content to youthful rites.
All of these travelers were united by the confluence of two factors: careful attention to the story, to expressing the subject, in short to the content. The will to make theater with all the person's resources without accepting preconceived prohibitions: body, voice, word costumes, gestures, images... Asphalt covered roads opened, small motels and multi-properties. The vitality of that border region once impervious and greatly diminished in recent years and aside from a few stubborn resisters, the artistic caravans have returned to their original stomping grounds: theater people to the drama, dancers to the ballet, performers everywhere. This abandoning of the crossroads of the arts is a great loss. Favored in Italy by the Herodian politics by the Ministry of Theater, but marked in the chromosomes of time: little cultural courage, small capacity to invent, no desire to risk.
Even the wanderers, who like us are stubbornly lingering in those borderline regions, once in a while run into some phenomena that demonstrate potential vitality. For example, Maureen Fleming, the dancer or performer raised in Butoh and launched by one of the temples of international experimental theater, New York's Cafe la Mama, which has opened the "Milanoltre" [Beyond Milan] Festival. Fleming is a sensational discovery, one of the rare, esthetic emotions in recent years. At the beginning of the piece she appears in near darkness as a whitish, milky spot suspended in mid air on a black stage. As the lights slowly get brighter some life can be distinguished in that marble ball. They are quivering plant life, then a kind of carnal vitality, the pulsating of an ameba or perhaps the gracefulness of a sea anemone. The metamorphoses are very fast and disquieting to the perception, above all because the object is almost immobile. Now a leg is uncovered that seems to come out of an undefined body, then the tangle unravels and it's clear for an instant a body... still as a statue, then again confusedly organic... it's a feminine body, this is now clear, and its position in mid air comes from a platform from which a ramp of stairs descends... The body is nude and slides slowly down those steps, turning, undulating, winding serpent-like...
It's one of the most fantastically erotic scenes that I've ever seen. Not that there is any sexual simulation nor any vulgarity: it's the flesh, the softness of that presence, that infinite and unreal movement. Other equally fantastic scenes follow: Maureen Fleming immobile and dressed as a man, her head down on a mirror of reflecting water; stretched out on her back at the edge of the same water mirror, nude again with a sharp twig in her bleeding side; to the scenes with the veil that is a butterfly wing, funereal attire, virtuous sculptural fluidity; isolated on a practicable against the background of an immense violet moon, committed to paradoxically marry mineral immobility and fleshly softness, feminine presence and sidereal distance...
How beautiful it is to roam in the land between theater and dance, because when one of its authentic creatures is found, the dream becomes natural, essential and infinitely thrilling.
[Translated by Joel Brody]