Decay of the Angel - New York Times, April 19, 2004

Glorifying the Goddess of Nature


Beautiful images abounded in "Decay of the Angel," the visually amazing solo Maureen Fleming danced on April 9 at the Annex Theater of La MaMa E.T.C.

She began by slowly descending to earth from high above the stage in lighting so artfully dim that it concealed any ropes that held her aloft. Then she posed on a mound above a reflecting pool of water, curving and bending into multitudinous shapes until she no longer looked fully human. Yet neither did she resemble any other easily identifiable creature.

Christopher Odo's sets and lighting enhanced the magic. So did Tadayuki Naitoh's projected photographs of Japanese ikebana flower arrangements by Gaho Taniguchi. When Ms. Fleming stood on her head while projected floral patterns revolved above her, she might have been the stem of a plant. Later, other projections made her appear to dance with ghosts of herself. After being an immobile lump on the floor beside a piece of driftwood, Ms. Fleming started stretching her arms as if they were branches of driftwood come to life. Program notes explained that her work was inspired by theories of mother goddesses in ancient cultures, ideas of reincarnation and a Japanese tale about a fisherman and an angel. Moments when Ms. Fleming's filmy costume billowed about her did make her look angelic. (At other moments, she was nude.) But few notions in the notes were fully elucidated on stage.

Maybe that was all to the good. A literal dramatization of the notes might have made the dance numbingly pedantic. Instead, Ms. Fleming created a world in which everything was blessed with the breath of life. The enchantments were musically heightened by mysterious compositions by Philip Glass, Arvo Pärt and Henryk Mikolaj Gorecki, some recorded, some played on the piano by Peter Phillips.