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Molissa Fenley channels water in performance at MCAM

A long line of Mills students, staff, faculty and visitors stretched out the doors of the Mills College Art Museum on Thursday night in anticipation of professor and alumna Molissa Fenley’s performance “Dances of Water Table.”

Fenley’s unique brand of postmodern dance continues to  inspire students and dance enthusiasts around the world.
Fenley’s unique brand of postmodern dance continues to
inspire students and dance enthusiasts around the world.

Molissa Fenley has performed and taught her unique style of postmodern dance at Mills since 1999. This performance on April 14 was a selection of just four parts from one of her most recently choreographed dance routines, Water Table.

Water Table, which has been a staple in many of her dance classes in recent years, explores ideas around water, its symbolism, and what water means to different places around the world. In wake of the many environmental crises plaguing societies across the globe and the extreme weather patterns that these changing conditions create, students like Zackary Forcum find Water Table to be particularly poignant at this point in time.

“Not only is it timely, but I guess you could say that it’s timeless,” Forcum, a second year dance MFA student, said.

Fenley teaches at Mills during spring semesters and trains with her dancers, Molissa Fenley and Company, in New York for the rest of the year. Two members of Molissa Fenley’s dance company took the stage beside her for “Dances of Water Table,” but the rest of her dancers were current or past Mills Dance students.

Mackenzie Pierson, senior dance major at Mills, danced alongside Fenley and four other guest artists during the final movement of the performance, “Mali,” in which all six dancers took places around the Art Museum and performed a single dance simultaneously, but alone.

“It feels really amazing to be a part of [Water Table],” Pierson said.

Christina Axelsen, who performed in two of Fenley’s four selections from Water Table on the 14th, has been a member of Molissa Fenley and Company since 2013 and has since served as a rehearsal director for performances of Fenley’s work in both Oakland and Salt Lake City.

“[Molissa] has such a strong sense of herself and what she’s interested in,” Axelsen said. “Her work is like this unique little universe to enter into and as a dancer I find it so gratifying.”

Fenley’s work is known for its precision and physical challenge, and “Dances of Water Table” was no exception.

“[Molissa’s] work is extremely athletic, it is long in duration, and stretches the bounds of not only expressiveness but technical skill,” Forcum said.

Fenley and her dancers will continue to perform selections from Water Table from the Bay Area to New York City throughout the summer, and she will return to Mills again in spring to continue teaching aspiring Mills dancers.