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Flash Review, 2-9: Masters
Eiko & Koma Meet Halprin, Soundtrack by Jeanrenaud

By Peggy H. Cheng
Copyright 2002 Peggy Cheng

NEW YORK -- Like photographic prints cooking in the developing juices, images slowly seep into being before our eyes. This is the experience of watching "Be With," the title piece of an evening running earlier this month at the Joyce with Eiko & Koma, Anna Halprin, and composer/cellist Joan Jeanrenaud (formerly with the Kronos Quartet). The evening, it turns out, is the first time that either the husband-wife team of Eiko and Koma or Anna Halprin have ever collaborated with outside dance artists. Jeanrenaud, offering her own cello compositions and live playing, laid down a musical foundation upon which the performers lightly tread.

Eiko and Koma's style of movement, driven by constantly evolving images in a butoh-esque manner, is the thread which "Be With" follows. Anna Halprin's presence (at 81 years of full-blown living, a presence not often experienced on the dance stage) is akin to some huge force of Mother Nature; the word "sorceress" comes to mind. As she, like Eiko and Koma, moves slowly across the stage before a wall of deep red rock, then serene blue paper-like surface, Halprin, at turns, blows the others about the stage like strong windy current, or gently caress them to the ground. When contact is made between Halprin and Eiko or Koma, it is huge, maybe a ritual. But as the thread continues, scenes evolve into intimate moments: Halprin slides down the wall to a squat, leans her elbows on her knees, and it could be a sunny afternoon in a parking lot where one woman finds a a moment to rest. Jeanrenaud's cello perfectly parallels the thread of the piece, the flow of the hills and valleys of images: sometimes gentle, nurturing scenes (Halprin as nurturing mother; once, like a mother bird, opening her mouth and dropping food to baby bird Eiko), other times violent, sexual, and always somehow urgent. The magical backdrop and gauze-like fiery costumes were by Eiko & Koma, and the lighting designed by Patty-Ann Farrell.

The second half of the program is ushered in by Halprin's autobiographical solo, "5-110." Chronicling the past and future of her dance career from age 5 to 110, Halprin (who has apparently not been seen on a NYC stage since 1968, when a controversial work at the then Hunter Playhouse brought the cops) lists to us the various phases she has travelled through, including her dance for self-healing as she faced illness at the half-century mark. At present, she has begun to understand Mother Nature. Looking into the future, she sees more healing, and, the "essence of things." Hand on the heart, hand to the ground, Halprin shows us how it's all connected.

Eiko & Koma's 1999 "Snow" completes the program. Snow did, indeed, fall upon the mostly dark stage, creating an outdoor nighttime scene, light pouring in from one side of the stage resembling some nearby streetlight. (Original lighting design was by Eiko & Koma and Jeff Fontaine.) While Eiko floated in the light in a light white robe, Koma was often behind, all in black, a puppeteer who manipulated Eiko's arms. He was the darkness, she the snowflake. At times they became less abstracted, more like a human couple, and he becomes her escort, then a vampire to her snow-white neck. As in the other work, there is an immediacy in the movement, Eiko and Koma infant-like in their sensitivity and sensing of each new moment. As in the first piece, images intensify and then dissolve before intensifying into another image.

 

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