Postcards from the Unconscious

by Rossella Battisti

It's really a shame that in a not too exciting landscape of dance events in the capital, the performance of Maureen Fleming might have passed by almost unnoticed. Certainly its scheduling astride the Christmas holiday (December 24, 25, 26) did not make things easier. Compliments are due to the Vascello Theater for knowing how to risk in the scheduling of dance events that are not at all banal and are of interesting quality.

"Eros", the performance that Ms. Fleming has presented in Italy for the second time (after its debut in Milan) is a work of refined craftsmanship wherein Butoh and techniques of Western dance/theatre are cast into a new perspective. In this weave are concentrated all the most original evocations that Maureen Fleming brings to us from her double nature as an American artist with oriental roots (she was in fact born in Japan, where she made a profound study of Butoh with various teachers, among them Kazuo Ohno). A 'transgression' in terms of content since Butoh is an artistic expression that arose from the revolt against Western invasion but that formally does not distance itself too much from the road that its founding fathers began (suffice to recall the impressionistic inspiration that Kazuo Ohno has derived from Monet). Ms. Fleming, therefore, only accents sculptural and suggestive qualities, looking for a stylized sign, purifying it from harsh contractions. Even the scream, that silent scream that one time in Butoh referred to the horrors of nuclear war, here, let's say, comes back in a neoclassic key. She looks like a Gorgon sculptured in marble. When Maureen rounds her mouth into a perfect 'O' or when the folds of her veil roll away from her body, what stands out in the spectator's eye are the 'stations' of her transmutation from one scene to the next. Nothing is casual: according to a vision that we would not hesitate to define as Zen, Ms. Fleming constructs her fresco of imperceptible calibration. It's not by chance that the performance draws inspiration from mythology, from the story of Eros and Psyche to pull its ecstatic visions out from the unconscious: a way of 'estranging' the performance, taking it away from the emotions of the senses in order to give it back to the mental esthetic. This is why her nude body, from the beginning to the end of the performance, does not stir up vibrations of carnal sensuality but rather of Apollonian balance where the play of references between East and West fluctuates impalpably and is fused in inextricable knots.

Without her unquestionable mastery of movement, Ms. Fleming would risk losing the intensity of such an esthetic structure along the way. But the performance unwinds fluidly. The 'postcards' rise up from the unconscious to present the spectator with clear, distinct perspectives, sometimes of frozen perfection.