Review of Maureen Fleming's WILDFLOWERS, A FEMININE GENESIS
Maureen Fleming Company
October 18, 2018
Freeform Review of Maureen Fleming’s WILDFLOWERS, A FEMININE GENESIS
By any standard, Maureen Fleming’s WILDFLOWERS, A FEMININE GENESIS constitutes a peak performance. What is blazingly evident here is the work of a consummate artist, who has melded the diverse aspects of her life itinerary, aesthetic and physical, into a seamless performance that is nothing short of magnificent.
I’ve been privileged to know Ms. Fleming’s work since the late 1980s, when I was producing events at New York’s Japan Society. She was performing around town, notably at Kampo Cultural Center, where Gabrielle Riera was producing cutting-edge, downtown performances. In addition to witnessing Ms. Fleming’s wonderful performances, I also noted her connection to Japan, where she was born and where as a young dancer she returned to work with butō and performance artist Tanaka Min and with the sainted Ōno Kazuo (1906-2010) and his son Yoshito (80 this year). (Kazuo and Hijikata Tatsumi (1928-86) created the butō form in the late 1950s.) Ms. Fleming rounded out her dance training under the Cecchetti maven Margaret Craske and for well over 30 years has been developing her particular style, performing memorably and conducting workshops here and around the world.
What she has developed is unique: initially a kind of mix of East and West, gradually evolving into a fertile blend of the often herky-jerky, stylized, pre-verbal, emergent-from-the-earth butō movement and that of the classical pirouetting, twirling, upwardly soaring ballet. In addition, because of a spinal deformity from a childhood car accident, Ms. Fleming has developed unique movement abilities, marked by an amazing elasticity. Having witnessed many of her performances over the years, I have always been taken by her creatively developing style, noting a gradual evolution to greater seamlessness and sophistication. She is neither Eastern nor Western, belonging neither to butō nor ballet. She is herself, sui generis, made of many diverse elements into one of a kind.
I first saw a prototype of WILDFLOWERS at her New York studio in January 2018 and was certainly intrigued, but that was a partial performance, limited in time and space. So I was delighted to see the fully developed piece, on October 18, 2018, at the iconic La Mama Experimental Theatre Club.
As the performance unfolded, I felt almost like a sybarite bathing in the aesthetic appeal of the fluid convergence of sensual movement, music, projected image, and uttered word, replete with symbolism inviting deeper thinking, deeper feeling, deeper stimulation. I really appreciated her use of William Butler Yeats’ mesmerizing recitation of “The Lake Isle of Innisfree,” one of the great poems in the English language, in one of her performance segments. In this way, she conjures up the budding genesis of the feminine archetype and carries us all the way to its full flowering. I would call what she has accomplished with this performance completely meditative, even transporting. No doubt on this evening: it was a performance to savor.
It’s probably the most appealing stage performance of any kind that I have seen in New York since Basil Twist’s milestone work, Dogugaeshi, at Japan Society in September 2007. As both works ended, I had the rare sensation of immediately wanting to experience them again.
John K. Gillespie
Gillespie Global Group
December 7, 2018
Author: John K. Gillespie
Photo Credit: Photo: Theo Cote.