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Dance Reviews : Morleigh Steinberg's 'XRAYD' at La Boca

August 03, 1992|DONNA PERLMUTTER

Until now, Morleigh Steinberg has been a member of the quartet ISO, that pop-oriented collective with a comic unconscious among other brainy, antic things, traceable to Momix and, earlier, to Pilobolus.

This weekend the native Angelena struck out on her own at La Boca and, as could be imagined, found a new creative persona.

"XRAYD," an extended solo, veered toward the surreal underside of irrationality that ISO had only briefly hinted at before.

And, while Steinberg enjoyed the collaboration of others here--Paul Chavez's sound score using original music by art-rock avant-gardist Brian Eno, Tom Kreuger's video--she largely went her own way.

It was a compelling way. To begin, she appeared in a huge swath of white sheeting--with one eye staring out from the artful wrap and no other part of face or body exposed. Watery chimes, in a minor-keyed scale remindful of the "Klute" film score, evoke an ominous feeling and fluid designs project against the sheet.

But as the piece progresses beyond the next visual trick--Steinberg's nude body, lit from a back wall, is X-rayed through the sheet she holds up as a screen--it focuses not on the \o7 trompe l'loeil \f7 and how reality transforms itself but on a descent into autism, achieved with frightening integrity.

Everything she reveals is without self, the be-all and end-all of madness. The body becomes a mere physical thing, flung about, adhering to its environment. At one point, as she stands in a black dress wearing oversized men's shoes, her eyes blink on cue from off-and-on lights as a tuner ranges over the radio dial, never landing on a station--making the audience, too, feel the discomfort.

At the finale, Steinberg races around the stage, the shoes clumping, and flits off and soundlessly out of them, leaving nothing but those shoes, shining in the spotlight like two abandoned vessels.

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