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AUDIENCE REVIEW: 'The Day' by Lucinda Childs and David Lang
Wendy Whelan and Maya Beiser
October 26, 2019
On October 26, I had to opportunity to see The Day performed at the Joyce Theater by dancer Wendy Whelan and cellist Maya Beiser. This piece, choreographed by Lucinda Childs is artful and minimalistic. Composer David Lang created an emotional and powerful piece of music that paired well with the movements chosen by Childs.
This piece is a tribute to the tragic day of 9/11, to the loss that was felt when the Twin Towers came down, and to the thousands of innocent lives that were taken. If I had not read about the piece prior to seeing it, I likely would not have realized that it was a tribute to 9/11, but the fact that it is so makes it all the more powerful.
In the first section of the piece, the cellist and dancer both take the stage with Beiser on a ramp and Whelan occupying stage right. Dozens of “I” statements are heard over the speaker, meant to complete the sentence, “I remember the day I…”. These statements are meant to symbolize memorable parts of people’s lives—accomplishments, loss, or simple observations. As these statements are made, Whelan dances across the stage using various props like long sticks, cloth, and rope. I especially enjoyed the use of the slender poles and the geometric shapes Childs created with them, as well as the way that Whelan moved with them seamlessly. The first section finishes with loud sounds of collision and crashes as Whelan endlessly pulls on a rope but never reaches the end of it.
The second section begins with a lamenting cello, replete with passion and pain. Beiser also sings long, stunning notes full of breath while playing. Whelan’s movements starts to become more active than the first section, as she dances and rolls up and down the ramp where Beiser previously was. Nearing the end of the piece, a sheet of fabric unrolls from the ceiling. Whelan dances with this fabric before finally, gently rolling herself in as she goes down the ramp. This ending created a strikingly beautiful sense of calmness but is contrasted with one of longing.
I thoroughly enjoyed the message and power of the piece, Childs’s choreography, and Lang’s music. However, performing a piece of this magnitude requires a deep sensitivity of emotion that I felt was lacking in Whelan’s dancing. I would have liked to see more feeling in her movement and a deeper sense of being grounded to match the power of the cello. On the other hand, I was completely captivated by the beautiful cello being played by Beiser. The audience is truly able to hear the pain, sorrow, and passion in her playing and it is wonderful to see her wholly immersed in the performance.