KPBS AIRDATE: January 09, 2004
Eighteen months ago, Gina Angelique had a baby. The wildly imaginative choreographer and founder of Eveoke Dance Theatre thought a lot about motherhood and its particular joys and obligations.. So last year, when 65% of the population said they were in favor of sending their daughters and sons off to war, she just couldn’t understand it. And that got her thinking about parents who suffer the death of a child involuntarily — through illness, accident or suicide. The result of all this rumination — and numerous interviews — is “Mothers,” a forceful, passionate dance theater piece that is jaw-dropping, thought-provoking and gut-wrenching.
The evening starts on a light, whimsical note — an often-humorous exploration of the many stereotypes of motherhood: cook, cleaner, nurturer, childbearer, party planner, hostess, Super Woman, multi-tasker, and overstressed caregiver to all. Sometimes, these women wear charmingly fake smiles as they slog through the drudgery of their day, pulled at and dragged down, chased after and demanded of. Sometimes, as in a wonderfully sensuous video of Angelique, only their hands show the stress. Sometimes, as in a lovely solo by Nikki Dunnan, only the back. The à propos props, the creative employment of which is an Angelique trademark — in this case, spatulas, whisks, sacks of flour — are put to incredibly imaginative uses. The visual imagery and stage pictures are gorgeous.
Once Angelique begins to explore the darker side of her theme, which is only hinted at earlier on, the evening becomes very intense. She looks at mothers plagued by demons, anguished and paroxysmal. In “Ash,” with beautiful music composed by Bridget Brigitte in honor of her mother, Marianne McDonald, Butoh artist Charlene Penner pours flour onto the floor in a long, straight line, as Angelique’s voiceover recounts her maternal dream asking, “Which mother will lose her child tonight?” At each performance, Penner picks a different dancer to answer that question with a touching and tragic solo; on opening night, it was the marvelous Araceli Carrera. This potent segment is followed by “Hell” and “Field of Wounded Mothers,” one a nightmarish vision of bodies intertwined, the other a moaning, writhing communal and individual wail of despair, a symphony of damning, praying, bargaining and grieving. The splendid dancers thrash themselves into impossible positions. They cry out and collapse. And then, in one dreamy instant, Penner as the ashen child approaches one mother, and is picked up and held in a heartbreaking fantasy freeze. The end of the piece was followed by a palpable, cathartic, breath-stealing silence before the audience burst into applause. Even the dancers were visibly moved. Some of these images were agonizing to watch, and some will not be soon forgotten. But Angelique, ever the activist, puts them out there in the hope that they will be turned to social good.
©2004 Patté Productions Inc.