'Motion Without View' At The Drake Theater

Posted: April 17, 1993

It would seem impossible to imagine a more unusual dance than Motion Without View, a piece Michael Mao created for blind people. Yet he did come up with the impossible in the concert his troupe, Michael Mao Dance, performed at the Drake Theater last night as part of the NextMove Festival.

Wittily titled Trespassing, this little solo is set to Saint-Saens' The Dying Swan, the music made immortal by Anna Pavlova. Mao trespasses on the dance by turning it upside down and inside out. For starters, it is performed by a man, Tim Martin, who is accompanied not by a violinist, but a boom box wheezing out the soulful music. The swan who is in the process of dying begins on her feet. This guy starts out on his butt. And instead of moving with a balletic vocabulary, he moves in hip-hop style - moon walks and all.

Obviously, this send-up is clever, but it's also something more. As outlandish as the conception is, it also comes off as a perfectly valid

interpretation of the music. Like the best of satires, Trespassing makes one rethink what one had taken for granted. Why not spin on your butt to The Dying Swan?

A more serious side of novelty is explored in Motion Without View. It was inspired by the story of many Cambodian women who suffered traumatic blindness after witnessing the Khmer Rouge reign of terror in their country. The dance is performed by Mao's own troupe and six blind amateur dancers, all of them women and two of them from the Overbrook School for the Blind.

The first and last thing to be said about this dance is that Mao's treatment of his theme is more engrossing than the blindness factor. Indeed, it's often difficult to distinguish between the dancers with vision and those without. This blurring of the line is due in part to Mao's tact as a choreographer and in part to the fact that none of the female dancers make eye contact with each other or the audience. In a way, all of the women seem blind.

Whether real or a matter of illusion, blindness figures in Motion Without View as a metaphor for the blind, or mindless, savagery that occurs during a period of genocide.

The program repeats tonight and tomorrow night.

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