When taking up the mythic role of Cleopatra, just learning of her lover and political ally Antony’s suicide, dramatic statements are a must: “Being alive is the bane of my existence” “I want to die…I’m bored, tell me a story” “Fucking Octavian! Fucking Herod!” Charismatic dancer and choreographer Jack Ferver enacted the role with relish in Me, Michelle at the Museum of Art and Design.
Ferver’s partner and co-choreographer, Michelle Mola, was equally arresting in her role as Cleopatra’s body man of sorts, also named Michelle, ready to serve, whether it be a Pomeranian hurriedly retrieved from a backroom (an unfortunately brief appearance) or the poison for Cleopatra’s suicide (“Do you love me? Then help me kill myself.”) Needy Cleopatra constantly demanded Michelle’s attention, even, or especially, when the character is broken with contemporary, self-involved chatter, as if talking about crushes at a slumber party.
Michelle stole her own moments with stories of violence and torture that she has enacted on anonymous victims, a hint of her own distinct identity outside their relationship. The two talked as much as danced, often speaking in tandem. Their movements were similarly intimate and engaged, as when they danced with Ferver’s hands intertwined in Mola’s hair, or when their highly stylized posing created overlapping shadows on the white wall behind them.
As Cleopatra entered her final moments after self-poisoning, the two danced silently and ritualistically. The room went dark, and the curtains slowly rose to reveal the epic night view of Columbus Circle from the eighth floor of the museum. Despite knowing that the grand obelisk in the cityscape below is dedicated to Christopher Columbus, it was easy to imagine that we had just witnessed night falling on the Egyptian empire.
All performance photos by Michael Hart.