Reviewed by Lisa Jo Sagolla
Self-presented at Joyce SoHo, 155 Mercer St., NYC, Oct. 5-8.
Though you may not like what you see, the choreography of Eun Me Ahn, presented at Joyce SoHo, will hold you spellbound. With cunning theatricality, Ahn creates thoroughly absorbing works that assault the viewer with disturbingly confusing images and scenarios peppered with butoh-esque sensibilities.
The climax of her provocative ensemble piece, "Period 2," featured Ahn, center stage, puttering through odd bits of understated, ritualistic movement, while a diaper-clad "corps de ballet" framed the space behind her, calmly executing unison posturings with overtones of traditional Asian dance forms. As Ahn danced, she began to "bleed," bright red liquid slowly oozing from one part of her body, then another, until she was bathed in red and bouncing amidst a messy puddle on the floor. Accompanied by booming percussion, the effect was simultaneously riveting and nauseating. With symbolic references to umbilical cords, brides, babies, and child's play, the work is a decidedly unromantic celebration of the human life cycle that draws its power from Ahn's keen ability to trap us within multi-sensory experiences from which there is no psychological escape.
Though the ballet world hails the beauty of a dying swan with the famous solo that translates the swan's motions into a glorious vocabulary of bourées and port de bras, Ahn reminds us how ugly the death of a bird can really be. In her "Dying Swan," danced (and co-choreographed) by Mark Haim to the familiar Saint Saens music, the bird was aged and piteous. After running in big, accelerating circles around the stage, he suddenly crashed headlong into the back wall. Lying pathetically on his back, he raised a quivering arm. Standing once again, he arched backward and seemed to get stuck there, bent in half and unable to move. He collapsed into a fetal position. It was all so painful that, by the end, even the luscious cello score sounded horribly like nothing more than horsehair being pulled across catgut.
The evening was completed by "A Lady," Ahn's bizarre portrayal of a woman burdened by her obesity; costumed in a lumpy, oversized fat-suit with live human legs, she proved compellingly repulsive.