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Impressions of Meredith Monk & Anne Waldman

Impressions of Meredith Monk & Anne Waldman
Melanie Greene/Follow @MethodsDance on Twitter

By Melanie Greene/Follow @MethodsDance on Twitter
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Published on January 11, 2016
Photo: Ian Douglas/Courtesy Danspace Project

Presented by Danspace Project

December 17-19, 2015

Performers: Meredith Monk & Vocal Ensemble (Katie Geissinger | voice, Allison Sniffin | voice and piano, Ellen Fisher | dancer-at-large)

Performer: Anne Waldman

Blend the artistic prowess of composer, choreographer, singer, filmmaker, and installation artist Meredith Monk with poet, performer, editor, educator, and cultural activist Anne Waldman. Add a dash of 50 plus years of performance experience. Now, you have a rare treat that offers a delectable arrangement of language, sound, and motion to whet the appetite of any dance (or art) devotee.

The evening begins with a husky, disembodied voice rhythmically stringing together indecipherable phrases as a waterfall projection cascades against the St. Marks Church sanctuary backdrop. Waldman advances from the audience, reciting her poetry with a singsong cadence. Holding a black binder, this enchantress coaxes her incantations from the page. She sways back and forth with a wide stance, shifting her weight beneath softly bent knees. Her words are not easy to follow, and they cause the mind to wander between confusion and comprehension, but words like "placate," "constellations,"  "systems," and "metabolic" resonate within listening ears.

Next, Katie Geissinger and Allison Sniffin join Monk to present five works. Between each piece, they matter-of-factly adjust their placement in space, shifting from a large outward facing triangle to a straight line and then to a small inward facing triangle. Their vocal tones circle and pulse around the backs of their throats, creating undulations, canons, and echoes of sound. Their bodies are rigid, but their low guttural vibrations weave through the air like silk ribbon.

Monk and Waldman stand far apart on the Danspace stage. Waldman is in mid speech
Photo by Ian Douglas, courtesy of Danspace Project

During Cellular Songs (work in progress), their voices fluctuate up and down while their bodies mimic a volume dial moving back and forth. Ellen Fisher joins the ensemble during Scared Song. Wearing jeans, a hoodie, and sneakers, Fisher runs anxiously in the downstage darkness, lost and confused, while Monk and Sniffin spend time behind a keyboard and grand piano respectively. Monk carries us through a vocal landscape with piercing peaks, rippling valleys, and swelling plateaus.        

In addition to working separately, Monk and Waldman present a unique collection of collaborative works. This collaboration accentuates the strength of their artistry as individuals. Waldman’s gruff voice chugs along as Monk’s haunting wail lingers between piano chords. Waldman weaves together words that pick you up and drop you off between the metaphorical and literal. Monk responds with playful witch cackles, panting, subtle sighs, and tongue clicking all of which are layered on top of humming. These two send you swirling within a stream of consciousness encased by the possibilities of voice.

Monk, Ellen Fisher and Waldman wear head sets and speak out to the audience
Photo by Ian Douglas, courtesy of Danspace Project

For some, witnessing the work of Monk is like going to church. She invokes feelings of admiration and reverie. Adding the genius of Waldman offers a rare double punch of New York performance history and legacy. These women radiate magnificently both together and separately. What better place to bring these forces together than in the historic St. Marks Church performance space.


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