Maureen Fleming’s 4-part solo dance, ‘After Eros’ is haunting, exhilarating

By Camille LeFevre
Dance Review

At age 2, Maureen Fleming flew through a car windshield after her mother slammed on the brakes to avoid hitting a man on a bicycle. The accident occurred in Japan, where the American dancer was born, and reportedly instigated Fleming’s early choreographic explorations. Fleming went on to study Butoh (a minimalist dance form created in postwar Japan), American Indian dance and ballet. Her resulting choreography, as evidenced in her four-part solo work ‘After Eros," is haunting and exhilarating.

In her first appearance in the Twin Cities last weekend, the New York-based choreographer showed extreme flexibility in her joints, extraordinary muscle control and a mature artistic sensibility.

Chris Odo’s lighting adds stunning contours of illumination and shadow to Fleming’s body. The score, by composer Philip Glass, is performed live by pianist Peter Phillips. And Jeff Bush’s film and video projections are beautifully integrated into the piece.

In part one, "The Sphere," Fleming seemingly turns inside out as she pulls her body forward from beneath her arm. As she arcs her spine in a gravity-defying backbend, she’s lit like a waning moon. A film interlude between parts one and two shows Fleming’s body blooming in a kaleidoscopic series of flowerlike shapes.

In part two, "The Stairs," Fleming flows down a steep stairway, a slow-motion cascade of long hair, limbs and energy suspended in space and time. As this section ends, Chris Odo takes the stage with a slim metal pole, which he twirls until it becomes a circular blur.

Part three, "Axis Mundi (Tree of Life)," is the most riveting section with the multiple perspectives it creates. As the nude Fleming twists and turns in a shallow pool, mounds and curves of her body are reflected in the water. At the same time, on the scrim behind her, Fleming is projected in silhouette against a scene of moving water. It’s as if the audience is at the bottom of the ocean, looking up at her swimming near the surface.

Fleming then grasps two curly branches (of corkscrew hazelnut?) lying next to the pool, and with them curved around her arms she stands and rotates her spine like the mythological Daphne rooting herself near a riverbank. She then crouches and covers herself with the branches, looking as though she is an otherworldly creature just washed ashore.

Part four, "Flower," begins with Fleming twirling a piece of billowing white fabric. She then sits with hands crossed, fingers splayed, elbows at sharp angles and spine twisted, as a video of her dancing with the fabric is projected behind her. With this image juxtaposing freedom and confinement, Fleming concludes her meditative and mesmerizing work. -Camille LeFevre is a St. Paul writer.