After Eros - Richmond Times-Dispatch, March, 1999

By Jennie Knapp, Special Correspondent

Dancer/choreographer Maureen Fleming stretched and curled like an invertebrate animal through "After Eros," a hypnotic performance of Japanese butoh-inspired dance that transformed her body into living sculptures.

While shaping herself ever so slowly into abstract images, Fleming was nude. To this she added a spiritual nakedness that underscored the honesty of her work and made so compelling.

Butoh is about baring the soul and drawing the viewer into an inner world and the effect of last night's performance was hallucinatory. "After Eros" resulted from the American choreographer's recent discovery of information about a childhood accident in Japan that should have left her immobile.

The performance marries the story of Fleming's car crash to the myth of Psyche and Eros and sets up (a not altogether successful) parallel between Fleming's transcendence of fate and Psyche's trials.

The first two works in the program offered the strongest choreography. In "The Sphere," Fleming creates a feeling of being frozen in time. Surrounded by darkness, she emerges in a column of radiant light. Her knees bent, her torso tilted, she reaches backward at a glacial pace until her hands reach the floor and her torso forms a thin white circle, like a moon in eclipse. The piece takes only minutes, but time loses its meaning in the eternity in which Fleming is poised on half-toe, suspended in midair behind herself.

In "The Stairs," the most dramatic work of the program, Fleming reduces movement to its essence in stillness. Plunging headfirst don a black velvet staircase, the dancer glides through several barely perceptible rotations. The piece carries the psychic power of a recurring dream with no beginning and no end.

A projected video of the dancer in a collage of contortionist moves had the flavor of Georgia O'Keeffe's changing images of flowers. Most of Fleming's pieces ended with a look of simple grandeur. Distilling shapes to their most basic, Fleming endows them with a primordial vitality. Just as arresting as her body sculptures is the process of transformation she undergoes to achieve them.