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Meredith Monk at Bryn Mawr in performance

SHARON GEKOSKI-KIMMEL / Inquirer Staff Photographer
Monk, composer, dancer, and director, completed a residency at Bryn Mawr College Sunday with a performance featuring her “Education of the Girlchild” from 1972.
By Merilyn Jackson For The Inquirer

At Bryn Mawr’s McPherson Auditorium Sunday afternoon, the first dancelike movements Meredith Monk made in her 1972 solo from Education of the Girlchild were small, rhythmic hand movements. They opened up to a still-minimal and unembellished upswept arm, a small bend, and a turn of the knee – not so much dance, but the expression of dance.

The performance was the culmination of a weeklong residency in which the Peruvian-born Sarah Lawrence grad and MacArthur Fellow, who was just named one of NPR’s “50 Great Voices,” led workshops that explored her singular brand of vocalese and movement.

Monk, 68, begins Girlchild sitting motionless in whiteface, wearing a gray wig and baggy muslin pants laced with leather strips. Her puppetlike gestures recall younger days, and soon she removes the wig, reverentially kneeling to the age she would become as she loosens her hair and personifies a younger version of herself. With its superb theatricality and stagecraft, the piece gained in poignancy as I realized she is now reaching the actual age she envisioned 40 years ago.

As the older version, she deploys the lower registers of her voice, skating emotional planes between nostalgia and fear, threatening and soothing, creating little etudes that reveal the nexus between human movement and vocalization. In the original version she leaps from her raised dais to her younger self. Now the dais has steps that she descends robustly.

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- Merilyn Jackson

Merilyn is a guest contributor to the Dance Journal. She writes regularly on dance for The Philadelphia Inquirer since 1996 and writes on dance, theater, food, travel and Eastern European and Latin American fiction for many publications. More than 800 of her articles have appeared in publications as diverse as The New York Times, The Warsaw Voice, The Arizona Republic, The Phoenix New Times, MIT’s Technology Review, and Arizona Highways, Dance, Pointe and Dance Teacher magazines, Broad Street Review and www.exploredance.com.

She was awarded an NEA Critics Fellowship in 2005 and a Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Fellowship in 1999 for her novel-in-progress, O Solitary Host. A chapter of that novel, “A Sow of Violence,” appeared in the Massachusetts Review in the Fall 2004 “Food Matters” issue. In 2012 she attended poetry workshops at Colgate University and Sarah Lawrence College, working with poets Peter Balakian and Tom Lux, respectively. Several of her poems appear in Exquisite Corpse, The Rusty Nail and Broad Street Review. She likes to say that dance was her first love, but when she discovered writing she began to cheat on dance. Now that she writes about dance, she’s made an honest woman of herself, although, she also writes poetry. Much of her writing can be read on her personal blog Prime Glib.

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