nytheatre.com review by Sheila Lewandowski
Barbara P. King’s dance-theatre
piece, Maiden America, which explores the very complicated theme
of how women try to identify themselves as individuals and as members of
society, succeeds sporadically.
August 15, 2003
There are some wonderful gestural choices in the choreography. In the beginning of the piece the forward moonwalk is well-done and the posturing and hand gestures symbolize a physical language that women use without noticing themselves. When the six very hard-working dancers are completely in sync, the image of conformity without clich� is effective. Unfortunately, many of the gestures are overused, losing their effectiveness; and the dancing often goes on too long.
One particularly energetic and pointed number that works well is the "cheerleader piece." It doesn’t fit into all of the conventions set up earlier or followed later, but I listened attentively to the smart language of the cheers and the performers seemed to be enjoying themselves.
King’s choice to use an ethnically diverse cast of attractive but normal young women is a good one. The audience is able to relate to their struggle to "fit in" or to "escape" because we are able to see ourselves in them.
Two things I particularly enjoyed were the original music, by James Call and Greg Travis, and the use of red high heels as a tool of conformity and beautification by the women. The music takes the audience from the songs of children, to the grind of factories, to the steady rhythm of pop culture. The red high heel shoes conjure up the great Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale of a similar name, as well as every woman’s struggle between feeling attractive and being an individual.
Overall, Maiden America has merit, but would have been more successful if it were simplified (fewer props, shorter scenes) and shorter.