Female Spirit Let Loose in Joyful ‘Crones’

Goddesses all, the eight women responding to, creating and invoking spirit on Friday at Highways Performance Space in Santa Monica were truly enjoying themselves. Whether all the short improvisations in “Spirit Dances 2: The Crones--A Celebration of Life” were stellar was beside the point: Conceived and directed by septuagenarian Marion Scott, this was testament to the power of age (50 to 82); the power of women; the glory of expression through dance.

It was certainly an estrogen-driven night, and the only person missing, or so it seemed, was Shirley MacLaine. Sound healer Kabbalah Bach opened the proceedings with a rousing gong-ringing. She also wailed on a variety of Tibetan singing bowls, chanted and made mighty music, along with Jamaiel Shabaka, the lone male, who brilliantly let loose on flute, a small wooden xylophone and conga drum. Their accompaniment served as impetus for Scott’s Crones to individually rise from their throne-like seats and, well, vamp.

Allegra Fuller Snyder twirled to finger cymbals, finally swaying with a bamboo pole as if fording a stream. Leonora Panich, in jazz boots, uttered Crone-speak, riffing on the words “be” and “bee.” Herta Ware continued this quasi-narrative thrust, arms outstretched and prattling to the front row.

Looking seriously possessed, Medha Yodh offered traces of Bharata Natayam, with hearty foot-slapping and filigreed fingers. Also dramatic: Javanese dancer Nanik Wenten, rolling on the floor, enveloping herself with writhing arms. This angst-ridden but strangely beautiful bit then found Wenten clutching at Ware’s ankles, Yodh stroking her hair. Clearly, they felt her pain.


Scott, elegant--and reminiscent of Ruth Gordon--then unpinned her mane of hair, rose and began growling like a lion, gently wriggling her upper torso. In an exhilarating finale, the totemic-like Nzingha Camara shoulder-shimmied and draped her fabric belt around each woman, until the fortissimo call of the drum had the entire place clapping and rocking.

The spirit moved them.