Yvonne Meier's Area 51

December 13, 2007

Yvonne Meier

Danspace Project, NYC

December 13–15, 2007

Reviewed by Eva Yaa Asantewaa

Yvonne Meier’s new Area 51, a collaboration with dancer Aki Sasamoto on concept, choreography, and costumes, sent this writer back to the Danspace press release for help. But when it comes to Meier’s wispy concepts and their comedic execution, press materials lie useless. In the words of one guru, it’s best to be here now. If you aren’t here or weren’t there, there’s small chance of getting what’s fun about Meier, and that ephemerality might be the better part of her work’s appeal. It does not seem to take itself seriously as Art For The Ages and, at just about 50-minutes, too, Area 51’s wackiness doesn’t outlast its welcome.

    Lit by the wizard Kathy Kaufmann, Area 51 opens in absolute silence and stillness as the audience stares for a longish time at two mounds of large, dark blue throw pillows. Eventually, one pillow slowly slips from the top of its pile and more drift apart like slugs or beached seals, revealing dancers Osmany Tellez and Elizabeth Ward in gorilla masks and costumes. Cinematic lounge music underscores their aroused, increasingly rough engagement.  

    Oblivious of this abusive behavior, Sasamoto and Arturo Vidich gather all the pillows into a fake-fur sack, creating a giant ball that, like a nod to the best-known Star Trek episode, becomes the granddaddy of all tribbles, a huge fuzzy toy to tug and roll and trample upon. Gorillas convulse or scream from the church balcony for no clear reason. Black trash bags (with dancers enclosed) make like amoebas and take cellphoned movement instructions from Meier, who is embedded in the audience. Tellez presents a rather inexpert juggling act with silverware. Superheroes engage in slapstick, and human beings carry foamboards here and there.

       With a title alluding to that corner of Nevada noted for secret military projects and UFO sightings, and faint echoes of 2001: A Space Odyssey and Planet of the Apes, Area 51 seems like a sci-fi show cobbled together by amiable grown-up kids with warped memories. It’s a tough little item for anyone seriously seeking dance-y dance—or, simply, recognizable choreography—but it certainly brings out the giggles in the rest of us. Then again, maybe you had to be there.