Back when the globe was covered in primordial ooze and the Tower had yet to Babel, mysterious tribeswomen spun fantastic yarns in a language of sensual tones, dulcet minstrelsy and throaty yelps. Anna Homler, priestess of abstract parlance, still croons in such tongues.
And judging from her delectable "DELIQUIUM in C," performed Friday and Saturday at Highways, she has taken her ongoing exploration of invented speech to a new level of sophistication.
Throughout the three movements of the work, Homler, elegant in a white dress, cajoled the audience with wordless stories that conveyed themes of journeying over land, through seas and across time warps.
Slides appeared on the screen behind Homler as she warbled away: a New-World woodcut with three women bearing baskets to underscore the impression that Homler's aural folk history was recalling ancestors unknown. Later, a woodcut of a voluptuous mermaid alluded to seafaring lore as well as the sexual connotations of water. A zigzag of dots, lines and labeled points looked at once like a constellation guide, a road map and a table of chemical elements.
Further reinforcing the exploration motif, Homler spent the middle portion of the performance gliding around the stage with a wooden sculpture of a ship's prow around her waist (woman as ark?).
Between the pictures, playfully oblique and self-referential aphorisms blipped on and off on the screen. Besides providing counterpoints to Homler's trancelike incantations, these quips revealed the piece's implicit theme: the limits of conventional speech.
While Homler conceived of and performed in "DELIQUIUM in C" (with movement direction by dancer Melinda Ring), it was nearly as much musician Steve Moshier's and lighting designer Rand Ryan's show. Their contributions were integral and eloquent, transforming Homler's isolated solo into a seductive environmental experience.