Meredith Monk

Meredith Monk
BAM Harvey Theater, Brooklyn, NY
November 1-5, 2006
Reviewed by Lisa Rinehart


Meredith Monk and Ellen Fisher in Monk's impermanence
Photo by Stephanie Berger, courtesy BAM

Meredith Monk’s impermanence is a multilayered jewel box filled with tender explorations of the ordinary made extraordinary. It’s the kind of creation only an artist of Monk’s caliber can pull off. The piece is a macramé of characteristically hand-wrought instrumental compositions, songs, projected images, and short dances that, at first glance, appear random but ultimately hang together as a reverential musing on life’s ephemeral beauty. Monk considers the piece an elegiac response to the death of choreographer Mieke van Hoek, her partner of 22 years. But in the program she credits the process of creating it with renewing her conviction that “to spend a lifetime working on something you love and giving that to other people is a great privilege and blessing.”

Collaborating with eight talented musician/dancer/singers, Monk’s refined eclecticism selects the best fruits from a communal effort. She balances a long, strangely mournful video sequence of faces fragmenting into other faces via digital pentimento with the clarity of her own bell-like vocal lamentations at the piano. Keening sighs between couples who embrace but never touch are countered by a hilarious rhythmic dance with the feel of a schoolyard game run amok. The group stomps and waves its arms in awkward goofiness until petering out into a comic line of panting, exhausted adults.

Monk digs deep to find what is the most real, mining life’s micro-moments for consequence and meaning. Her musical arrangement of van Hoek’s delicate “Between Song” directs a virtual magnifying glass at the mundane and makes it magic. The ensemble recites “between the water and the rock, between the lipstick and the lips, between the seed and the dirt, between the skull and the brain,” until we get it—the beauty is there to be seen, but it’s fleeting and fragile, like life. See www.meredithmonk.org.

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