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An Evocation Of Nature
Jennifer Dunning, The New York Times
December 1, 1995

The 92d Street Y Harkness Dance Project festival got off to a provocative start Wednesday night at Playhouse 91 with new and recent work by Molissa Fenley. Performing for the first time since an onstage injury in January, Ms. Fenley was joined by two other solo dancers. The results were fascinating.

To see Peggy Baker and Michele Pogliani in Ms. Fenley's solo choreography is to realize that her unusual pure-movement style is as much minimalist theater as it is dance. And that is also the message of Ms. Fenley's mysterious, rooted new "Regions," which she performed to a magical score by Maggi Payne.

Seated in the powerful and dramatic "Chair," the first of three dances in "Regions," Ms. Fenley might be a large, hovering bird as her limbs curl and stretch out. In "Ocean Walk" and "Mesa," she resembles a little temple dancer moving about some shrine in wide-open nature. Strangely, Ms. Payne's score sounds much more mesa-like in the "Ocean" section, with its wonderful roar of what sound like rattling snakes and insects and the wind. David Moodey's lighting, first cool, then warm, corrects that misapprehension.

The torso is a strong, relatively unmoving column in Ms. Fenley's dances, with the limbs doing the "dancing," though not in the expressive way they tend to be used in modern dance. Ms. Fenley has the terse torso of an athlete. Ms. Baker, who has performed with Lar Lubovitch, is a long, lanky dancer whose entire body serves as a conduit for movement. In "Inner Enchantments," the effect was lush and filled with nuanced timing and physicality.

Ms. Fenley's new "Savanna," performed by Ms. Baker to music by Peter Garland, might be the darker face of the older solo. Michele Pogliani gave a slightly nervous-seeming, brittle account of Ms. Fenley's fanciful little "Tilliboyo."

The program will be repeated through Thursday at Playhouse 91, 316 East 91st Street, Yorkville, where the festival continues through Dec. 17.

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