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Dance to Monk: Choreographers Celebrate the Music of Meredith Monk

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The maverick composer, choreographer, director, and filmmaker Meredith Monk was greeted by a warm ovation of resounding applause and celebratory whooping as she took a bow at the end of the evening of dance that paid tribute to her inventive musical compositions. Presented at St. Mark's Church, the program comprised seven dance pieces by different choreographers, all performed to recordings of Monk's music.

The most interesting offering was "St. Petersburg Waltz," a Russian Jewish-flavored solo choreographed and danced by Seรกn Curran. Combining folk-dance movements that looked borrowed from Tevye; symbolic gestures suggesting soldiers, oppression, and execution; and expressive use of his torso, face, and dramatic energies, Curran, costumed and moving like an old man, created a poignant character study of a people and their history.

Also emotionally pungent was "Do You Be," an intriguing video (by Janet Wong) of a solo created and performed by Bill T. Jones. Looking almost Fosse-esque in a derby, slinking through short, classy phrases of showbiz-inspired vocabulary, Jones would freeze in a pose and then appear to step out of and back into his own image as he danced, and bowed, and tipped his hat in loving thanks to Monk.

Choreographer Doug Varone contributed an opaque duet titled "Desert Tango." The relationship between the two dancers remained unclarified, but the wondrous performance by Nina Watt -- as a woman both fascinated and repelled by her partner, yet afraid to surrender to either set of feelings -- proved engrossing.

"Flesh," choreographed by Ann Carlson, made exciting use of two dancers in wheelchairs and an ensemble of nondisabled performers who shaped themselves into majestic tableaux, piling upon and standing tall atop the rolling chairs. The program opener, a video clip from the 2000 Olympics showing a synchronized swimming routine choreographed to music by Monk, was highly amusing. "Piece for Meredith," a trio by Molissa Fenley, exhibited strong sculptural qualities that keenly held the movement's exuberant lyricism in check. It was only "With Meredith in Mind," a bland solo by Dana Reitz, that failed to ignite and felt simply self-indulgent.

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