IMPRESSIONS: Richard Move/MoveOpolis!’s "Herstory of the Universe@Governors Island"
October 16, 2021
Conception and Direction: Richard Move // Choreography: Richard Move with the cast
Costume Design: Karen Young // Map Design: Connie Fleming
Performance: Robyn Cascio, Megumi Eda, Lisa Giobbi, Celeste Hastings, Yoni Kallai, PeiJu Chien-Pott, Natasha M. Diamond-Walker, Gabrielle Willis
We were lost, then late, and after despairing we’d lost our way, we finally caught up to Richard Move/MoveOpolis!’s Herstory of the Universe@Governors Island. We being me and about ten other show-goers who’d gone astray on Governors Island, the 172-acre outpost located 800 yards south of Manhattan.
Huffing (the terrain is rougher than what us average city slickers are used to) and embarrassed by our map-reading ineptitude, we arrived for the third (out of six) vignettes. Although the event was technically a roving, site-specific dance performance, it felt like, and unfolded as, a pilgrimage.
Under a robin’s egg blue sky, we tramped across grassy fields and around stony paths. To the random passerby, our merry, motley parade may have struck them as a piece all its own. We paused intermittently to observe movement poems that appeared as if sprung from the environment itself.
To bracket the role between wanderer and watcher, a bell signaled the commencement of each work. As if the ringing were a call to prayer, folks fell silent; attention became focused, expectant. At the conclusion, the bell sounded again, and we returned to the secular world.
Herstory of the Universe@Governors Island took inspiration from its sprawling, enchanted setting as well as from myths around the world. Regardless of the origin, vivid, indelible imagery suggested an idyll where the ancient, arcane magic of women flourished.
Punk-rock ninja Robyn Cascio clambered up and down The Scramble in Ascent. She raised her arms in a V, like a triumphant salute; she curved them in an S, like a rococo curlicue. Over the precarious, uneven crag, she twirled, she crawled, and she stag leaped—all performed to our collective breath-holding. (For real, it’s steep.) When Cascio climbed up and away from us, the memory of her cryptic gestures and fearlessness remained. Many of us hiked through her holy ground, though with less badass capering.
At the top, where Outlook Hill lies, Natasha M. Diamond-Walker and Gabrielle Willis perched on rocks in anticipation for Demolition Angels. Sporting one-sleeved gauzy dresses, they looked sent from heaven. After gazing one way and then others, they wafted and rolled down the triangular hill. At times, they delicately picked their way over the stones that coiled the hill.
The breeze pressed the surrounding clumps of wildflowers and sheaves of grass into duty as a corps de ballet, swishing and waving. The duo regarded the skyline of Manhattan, and we regarded the outline of them, the demi-goddesses whose ritual of grace and communion we witnessed.
Japanese mythology forgoes traditional masculine embodiments of the sun in favor of a female goddess. During Amaterasu by the Cabin, a sumptuous PeiJu Chien-Pott swept across a meadow, flickering in and out of our vantage point, like a flame outwitting the wind.
The piece opened with her blinded, stumbling this way and that, a slice of her orangey-yellow dress draped over her head. After her sight was restored, she employed a small paddle to emulate the feminine morning ritual: brushing her black tresses, appraising herself in a mirror. With her frock swirling around her, Chien-Pott flicked her leg high, her foot pointed like a katana (a type of curved sword from Japan). She darted among the trees and reappeared near the cabin. Her sun was elusive, promising us warmth and beauty, but rising and setting when it suited her.
Hamadryads are tree fairies who are bound to one tree. When that tree perishes, so do they. This myth ignited into life during Hamadryad at Picnic Point.
In blouson pants, Lisa Giobbi flew—literally—thanks to Yoni Kallai. With pulleys and ropes, he enabled Giobbi to manifest the weightless aplomb of a supernatural creature. She flipped and soared from branch to branch; she scaled the trunk, her body perpendicular to the tree. At one point, she dramatically plunged to the ground. Later, clutching a branch in her hand, she looped through dreamy coupé jetés as she confronted the truth. Nothing lasts forever. Nature will reclaim her tree, so she must bid farewell to it and herself.