featured photo
The Kitchen
Brought to you by
Body Wrappers;
New York Flash Review Sponsor
the New York manufacturer of fine dance apparel for women and girls. Click here to see a sample of our products and a list of web sites for purchasing.
With Body Wrappers it's always
performance at its best.

Go back to Flash Reviews
Go Home

Women on the Verge, 1: Transformations
Cycling the Journey with Dawn Akemi Saito

By Peggy H. Cheng
Copyright 2003 Peggy H. Cheng

NEW YORK -- "Blood Cherries," written and performed by Dawn Akemi Saito at Dance Theater Workshop as part of its Carnival series, is a solo performance that is fully saturated, deeply moving, and peppered with degrees of humor and kindness. The key collaborators in the piece feel truly key to the process of this journey, matching Saito's dynamic shifts point for point with widely imaginative and compelling lighting by Philip W. Sandstrom, striking visuals by Eva Mantell, and a sound and music score designed by David Van Tieghem that is often the wave that the text rides. The work is directed by Jonathan Rosenberg and Sabrina Peck, with choreography by Peck and Saito, and dramaturgy by Robert Uno. Saito's one-person show is backed by a team of intelligent artistic choosers and implementers, giving her already strong force as a performer increased impact.

Saito undergoes a kind of ancestral journey, an exploration of the spirits of her characters, spending time as a rearing and restless horse, the mother, the living and dying father, the French husband that is also a Jesuit priest in training, and the young woman who is the daughter and wife. The text is often tongue-twisting, but somehow the words fell into my ears through their flow and rhythm, allowing the puzzle pieces of the story to knit together as the scenes came and went. The father, mother, and husband are played with a sincerity and kindness that allows their faults to be the reasons we care about them even after they anger us.

The physical transformations that Saito is capable of undergoing are an easy hook for my interest. As the characters reveal more and more, the transformations increase in intensity; like memories or dreams, the faces melt into each other, and Saito's body begins to look as if it will explode. The body becomes a casing, bursting with the life/spirit/story within. As I watched I felt at times emotionally moved, at other times fascinated by the visual spectacle I saw before me. The exploration of the distorted and contorted can be seen throughout and is underlined by the various elements in the piece. There is even a metamorphosis within the father character from one version to another version: the Buddhist priest strong-jawed father becomes a cool cat of a jazz musician, still dispensing his wisdom but with a much looser lip.

At the end, Saito stands before a clean slate: a kind of supernatural and expansive light, as when the sunlight is strangely white, and people are willingly or not taken into this light. It is at once a beginning and an end, and like an earlier vignette in which an image of a circle, perhaps a moon or sun, is slowly filled, the light recedes and fills at the same time, remaining complete, continuing to fulfill its cyclical journey.

Dawn Akemi Saito performs again Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.. For more information, please visit the Dance Theater Workshop web site.


Go back to Flash Reviews
Go Home