By Alice Kaderlan
There are many startling words and images in Maureen Fleming's tour de force "After Eros," which had its world premiere at City Theatre on Friday evening and, just as Fleming intended, their full effect will not be felt until they have been imbedded themselves in the viewer's unconscious.
This is the fundamental way in which butoh art operates and, like other great butoh artists, Fleming has the capacity to both astonish us in the present and, at the same time, leave us with much to explore on our own long after the performance has ended.
"After Eros" was co-commissioned by the Pittsburgh Dance Council, whose 1992 presentation of Fleming's solo "Water on the Moon" left local audiences clamoring for more of Fleming's striking work. Although the primary aesthetic vision behind "After Eros" is clearly Fleming's, the full-length work represents a seamless melding of the talents of many artists, all of whom deserve individual mention.
The visual power of Fleming's nude and near-nude solos, in which she hangs, twists, and shapes her body into other-worldly forms, would be largely lost without David Moodey's extraordinary lighting effects. Moodey's elegant use of red, blue, and white light enables Fleming's body to take on the quality of mysterious organisms which sometimes resemble vaguely familiar human, animal, and plant forms and sometimes create an entirely new entity.
All the musical contributions, from Philip Glass, Mickey Hart, John Adams, Somei Satoh, and Henrik Gorecki, beautifully underscore the ethereal nature of Fleming's physical style. Joel Giguere provides powerful visual effects, which include a moon-like shape that periodically appears and disappears and a water pond that both mirrors and expands the images Fleming is able to achieve as she contorts her supple body above, alongside and in the pond.
Though subsidiary to Fleming's stark solos, which become kinetic body sculptures, Christopher Odo's magnetic presence twirling a huge silver pole or standing on his head add important dramatic elements to the overall presentation.
Fleming's collaboration with choreographer David Parsons on "After Eros"' final scene provides an upbeat conclusion to the work's otherwise somber mood and David Henry Hwang's text, although occasionally jarring in its silliness, nevertheless contains some genuine pearls of wisdom and beauty.
Indeed, the overall theme of "After Eros" is perhaps best summarized in Hwang's single-most powerful line, "I have become the one whose love I had sought." It's a concept whose simplicity and depth are the guiding forces behind the journey that Maureen Fleming, and those who choose to join her, are taking, in life and in art.