Tranquil, violent: A soulful rebirthMaureen Fleming was a child when a man on a bicycle darted in front of her mother’s car. “And when my head went through the windshield, the man laughed and rode away,” she recounted in an interview with The New Yorker.
Ms. Fleming doesn’t remember the accident; she has only heard about it from her mother. But she remembers dancing to help her recover from the injuries she suffered.
Years later, she is still dancing. As an adult, she studied an unconventional dance form called butoh under masters in Japan. In the aftermath of the bombing of Hiroshima, dance pioneers like Tatsumi Hijikata and Kazuo Ohno drew upon Western modern dance and classical Japanese forms to create a new, majestic and often horrifying language.
The dancers used their bodies to metamorphosize into elegant and startling visions of rocks, trees or ghosts, but most often explored birth and death. The set was usually stark, leaving the body as the central means of projecting these images. As butoh developed, some choreographers created precarious installations that depended on extreme physical endurance. In one instance, a member of Sankai Juko, one of the first butoh troupes to perform in the United States, fell to his death during a performance.
For “After Eros,” to be performed Saturday and Sunday at the exhibition center of the Korean Culture and Arts Foundation in Daehangno, northern Seoul, Ms. Fleming collaborated with Philip Glass and Somei Satoh on music, Chris Odo on lighting, Jeff Bush on film projection and David Henry Hwang on text. The piece was conceived, appropriately, after “Eros,” which was a melding of solos by Fleming and Yoshito Ohno, son of the aforementioned Kazuo Ohno.
In “After Eros,” Ms. Fleming dances seminude, with lights playing across her body. She appears to be dangling high above the stage, because the light illluminates part of her body, and not the staircase she is slowly tumbling down from. Using film projection, she transforms herself into a series of kaleidoscopic flower petals. The pieces range from tranquil to violent. According to a review in The Boston Globe, Ms. Fleming is obsessed with the suffering and regeneration of the soul in “After Eros.”
Instead of dealing with social ills, Ms. Fleming addresses spirituality in a four-part performance. And she makes full use of the erotic nature of dancing nearly nude. A review in Dance Online says her “willingness to embrace the erotic element in her dancing is one of her art’s most striking characteristics ... To deal openly with this most vital of subjects can unleash the most profound power, beauty and even terror, and move us to our depths.”
She has been touring the world with the piece for years, and each time “After Eros” is performed it continues to evolve. For now, only she knows what form “After Eros” will take this weekend; what it becomes afterward, only time will tell.
by Joe Yong-hee
For more information, visit the Web site at www.spaf21.com, or call (02) 766-0228. Tickets are 20,000 to 30,000 won. The Saturday performance is at 8 p.m.; Sunday performances are at 2 and 7 p.m.