There was an eeriness to the work as soon as I reached the stairwell to enter the space. The dance was set in a white room with white rows of seats. A fluffy white carpet was set as a stage for four female naked dancers including one who was slightly to the side waving a white panel as a fan for her collaborators.
This image was of a startling beauty on its own.
“April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.”
Inspired by this poem by T.S. Eliot, Melinda Ring managed to create a mood of winter waste land in Forgetful Snow, which is part of a triptych. Without music, décor, or anything extravagant, and movement that was mostly quiet, the small sparks of gestures and feverish jumps drew our attention to the most minute noises: a scratch, skin rubbing, and the sound of feet landing on the carpet. Sharp lines devolved into anxious and fast skips which built up into risky balances. It seemed as though the dancers were purposely creating an itchy discomfort for themselves in order to produce heat with their body in the most unconventional way.
Though they shared a common space, the dancers barely make eye contact. They even closed their eyes at times. Though dependent on each other for timing, they were each performing their own individual dance (which technically they were). It was even rare to see them standing at the same level. Or see them even facing the same direction, which they do not do until the end.
When they partnered with each other the contact was rough, as though they were grabbing one another out of convenience or commodity. They particularly avoided any acknowledgment of one another in these moments, as though their minds weren’t recognizing what their bodies were craving. When dancers Molly Lieber and Maggie Jones reached for each other’s hands, their fingers just kept crawling over one another, indulging in this rare moment of touch. then later Lieber grabbed Jones’ face and neck from behind as though her body was acting without her own consent.
The famous and influential poem that Ring was inspired by for this work is about the sterility of the world following WWI. Lieber, Bouboushian, Epstein, and Jones performed with a complete lack of emotion, standing beside each other, holding one another sometimes really close with a completely detached gaze. The entire space, including their bodies, was bleak and yet seemed to bring up a much larger and deeper issue that might go beyond our comprehension- something was off, in a crisp white, “perfect set”, the mood created by the work was out of balance, uncomfortable. Only two sounds came out of the dancer’s mouths- when Lieber’s body is pressed face down towards the ground by Jones she whispers, “what are you doing?” And Epstein just lets out a gasp of relief at the very end.
Lieber brought the work to an end by closing her eyes and slowly exiting the space. As audience members we waited until we couldn’t hear her footsteps anymore to start applauding. It was quite amazing how in tune we had become by then of those minute details. Forgetful Snow was incredibly stimulating in its minimalism and Ring left her mark on me by treating such tragic content with rare simplicity.