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Review, 7-8: Enduring Energy
Bidding the Big Farewell with Eiko and Koma
Copyright 2005 Chris Dohse
NEW YORK -- In some
ways it seems like Eiko and Koma, with "Death Poem" (seen June 23
at Danspace Project at St. Mark's Church), are narrowing their focus
or getting more specific. I mean the scene depicted in this duet
seems pretty inescapably one of a woman on her deathbed and a man
who is her caretaker or silent watcher. There is a clear story happening.
The two figures aren't only embodiments of energy or visualizations
of rarified concepts; they are characters. But in becoming more
specific they dwell in a universal reality. This story of somebody
dying is the big story after all. The one we all face, the one that
trivializes the rest.
The space in which they
dance is immediately visually seductive. A partially transparent
carapace, splotchy as if it might be a shroud, floats above Eiko's
body in the center of the church as the audience enters. Its shape
suggests the trash dumpster-sized object on which the couple performed
2003's outdoor ritual "Offering" in the St. Mark's cemetery. What looks like
snow or ash has been strewn on the floor in arcs and dollops. A
golden light isolates Eiko on a bower of fabric amid the blues and
purples of evening.
Like the protector of
a charnel ground, Koma paces counterclockwise as the overhead coffin
flies away. Perhaps he has come to read the verses of dying to his
mate, but realizes she isn't ready. Or does he think that he can
ease her suffering?
At certain times the
lighting turns the floor into a Milky Way scattered around Eiko
and she rests on a nebula bed, from which she seems to survey the
constellations of her life. She spasms in pain or curls in grief
for what has come before, ashen in hue, with the frozen immobility
of a Vesuvius relic or the grace of a young bride. When she scoots
off her nest into the surrounding space, it is as if her consciousness
wanders out of her body to glimpse the Bardo.
It's rare to see an
audience so engrossed, so reverent, as they huddle forward to catch
the whispers of crickets and frogs. Perhaps we all recognize this
long collapse of waiting for death. We've either sat at the beds
of loved ones or we hope that we will ourselves find such strength,
elegance and dignity in our final moments.
Koma enters again, this
time with a burning brazier. A cloth swings out to hover over the
space on invisible wires before fluttering to the ground on the
steps of the church's altar. A Kronos Quartet recording of work
by Hildegard von Bingen plays quietly and the two dancers join each
other behind a painting of Eiko in profile.
Eiko and Koma's corporeal
poetry roots itself in culturally specific elements to frame shared
experience. By performing a short story of one couple's goodbye,
they bring to life a visual meditation in which we can place our
emotions and rest our hearts. They embody an enduring energy; on
some intangible but not imaginary level that's all we ever are.
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