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Impressions of Donna Uchizono and The Professionals' "Sticky Majesty"

Impressions of Donna Uchizono and The Professionals' "Sticky Majesty"
Nicole Loeffler-Gladstone

By Nicole Loeffler-Gladstone
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Published on January 26, 2016
Photo: Scott Shaw

Traversing Between the Forest and Desert


Gibney 280, Agnes Varis Performing Arts Center, New York

January 14, 2016

Choreographer: Donna Uchizono

Dancers: Hadar Ahuvia, Sarah Iguchi, Molly Lieber, Heather Olson and Meg Weeks Composer: David Shivley

Musicians: Chris McIntyre, trombone; Butch Morris, cornet; David Shivley, cimbaloms, organs, percussion and feedback instruments

Costumes: Molly Lieber and Heather Olson's costumes by Wendy Winters; Wigs by Katherine Maurer

Lighting designer: Natalie Robin / Set designer: Michael Grimaldi


Trying to describe Donna Uchizono's Sticky Majesty is like trying to describe a reflection in a pool of rippling water: It morphs beyond easy recognition.

Uchizono has divided the theater at Gibney 280's Agnes Varis Performing Arts Center into two sections: the forest and the desert. Audience members in the forest sit with their backs against what would be stage left, while audience members in the desert sit in the bleacher seats facing the stage. Everyone can see the entire performance space, though the depth of field differs.

Three dancers dressed in black with orange tulle hair pieces perform on a dark wooded floor while two dancers in white dance on the other side of the stage on white marley
Molly Lieber, Sarah Iguchi, Meg Weeks and Hadar Ahuvia. Photo: Scott Shaw

As soon as the lights come up, Sticky Majesty starts its subtle shapeshifting. Molly Lieber and Heather Olson, two tall women in white wearing seaweed-like wigs, face the audience seated in the forest. Hadar Ahuvia, Sarah Iguchi and Meg Weeks stand in the desert, dressed in black, wearing short orange veils. In the dancers' presence, the pillars of the theater transform into pillars of a temple. Lieber and Olson seem like regal mermaid twins, with their tangled hair and languid movements. The trio in black shuffle up and downstage in a series of never-ending bourrées, becoming mourners or pall-bearers — or devotees on their way to a place of worship.

Lieber and Olson gently grapple with each other in a patient duel. Ahuvia, Iguchi and Weeks eventually travel toward the forest, and the loose gestures of their arms transform into powerful, full-bodied unison movement that inspires images of conjuring. When they resume their bourrées, their contracting calf muscles create a hypnotic physical metronome that makes one wonder how much longer they can stand it. Are they doing penance? Uchizono is treading an eye-opening line between using repetition and being repetitive. Her work clarifies the difference. 

Olson and Lieber in short white unitards and navy raffia wigs. Olson holds Lieber by the waist as Lieber lunges forward.
Molly Lieber and Heather Olson. Photo: Scott Shaw

In the desert, Lieber repeatedly stands with a leg extended in front of her. In one moment she invokes the steadfast patience of a heron, in the next, the yearning of a pilgrim.

Such subtle changes surface throughout Sticky Majesty, and are what make it so enigmatic. The work appears to function under a set of dichotomies: A desert and a forest, women in black and women in white. But it becomes clear that the swirling imagery won't adhere to the structure that houses it. Attempts to build connections or find answers in the movement itself are gently turned aside by the dancers' intense concentration and seamless transitions. Sticky Majesty is a unique opportunity to view dance that's too visually slippery to be caught in a moment of justification. 


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