Bernie West Theatre, New York, NY
September 15, 2005
Reviewed by Karen Hildebrand
Choreographer/dancer Beverly Blossom enters draped in black, carrying two bouquets of red roses. She wheels and sweeps her 79-year-old, pillowy frame around, then announces, “I’m exhausted. I feel the way I always did. Miserable. Everything hurts. It all boils down to a few clichés, and here they are.”
The Incomplete Lament of an Old Dancer
, “Part I, Cello Lessons”: Blossom dances a minuet with a cello inherited from her sister. Sardonic lines of text pepper bits of movement initiated by her gnarled hands. She offers up a large wad of black tulle and asks, “What shall I do with this black cloud?” then tosses it aside.
“Part II, Petals”: Rose petals drift from the red-satin-cloaked Blossom’s upraised fists. “Nik, where are you?” she laments in “Part III, Hope,” and then recites the modern dance family tree: “Isadora, Martha . . . Erick, José.” That is what this performance is about—the passing on of Blossom’s dance-history lineage, which began with Mary Wigman, Hanya Holm, and Alwin Nikolais. In the 1950s Blossom danced with Nikolais’ company. She continued to perform and choreograph while on the University of Illinois–Champaign-Urbana faculty, and now well into her retirement.
, a world premiere, includes nothing so athletic as even a small leap. Blossom’s strength is in her sense of humor, flowing arms, and expressive face—a wry look directed to the audience works like a comedian’s aside—and in her command of the stage. Costumes, props, and schtick are the Blossom way.
At 79, she’s still got it. Maybe she can’t hold it as long, and that’s where Cynthia Pipkin-Doyle, Blossom’s first university student in 1968, who performs two of Blossom’s signature solos, comes in. The centerpiece of Stylish Girl (1999) is a big-brimmed hat crowned with bobbing feathers. Pipkin-Doyle prances and picks like a bird, her movements accented by scarlet, elbow-length gloves and matching ankle ribbons. In Black Traveler (1961) her beautiful face and articulate hands and feet peek and poke from a cocoon of black Lycra. She’s a fine performer, worthy of carrying on the Blossom legacy. But one can’t help but notice what is lost in the translation—as something is always lost when handed down. Pipkin-Doyle restores physical vitality to Blossom’s work, but when Blossom finally stops performing we will miss her sad-clown eyes.