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Flash Review, 10-7: Gun Play
Fujii Fires Blanks

By Philip W. Sandstrom
Copyright 2005 Philip W. Sandstrom

NEW YORK -- The evening began with Keiko Fujii appearing goddess-like in a warm center spotlight, lavishly costumed in a glowing white and orange robe topped by a golden crown (traditional Buddhist temple garb?) of her own design. Performing delicate Buddhist hand gestures, with the trademark severely bent wrist and carefully splayed and pointed fingers, Fujii slowly and elegantly circled the stage, hinting at the beginning of some spiritual ritual, then exited. Immediately, accompanied by Tibetan throat singing and immersed in an unworldly blue light designed by Kathy Kaufmann, six acolytes appeared in white satin smoking jackets, stepping forcefully on the diagonal. Soon contortions overwhelmed them as their movements progressed from initial long strides through Tai-Chi poses into a gradual collapsing of the entire group. As they fell, one by one, writhing on the stage floor, their costumes magically turned inside out, changing from white to blood red. The dancers amplified the angst by relentlessly and repeatedly rising, falling, and writhing until a final unison writhe left them all exhausted and they slowly rolled off.

Thus commenced the dance drama "The Mirror," choreographed by and starring Keiko Fujii and presented at the Kaye Playhouse September 17. This first scene, entitled "A Herald-A Nightmare," set the stage for the tale of a strange and confusing life, or what the program called "the story of a plain inconspicuous woman whose image is not even reflected in a mirror." But little that followed correlated with this initial powerful and dramatic image.

After our heroine, Fujii, awoke from this nightmare, we followed her character's unhappy and dismal life through her morning ritual, observing her lack of reflection. We saw her traveling to the office with a crowd of ballet-to-jazz dancing trench coats. At the office, we witnessed her as a tough and demanding boss through the use of more mime than dance, and through various intrigues -- which seemed office-related -- expressed mostly in jazz dance. Not much of this was interesting. At a festive gathering of office personnel punctuated by our heroine's entrance in a bright pink party gown, we were treated to joyous dancing, with baroque phrases, highlighted by the performances of three women in pretty blue-bottle dresses. The ensemble screamed with delight as our heroine, when she finally saw her reflection in the mirror, joined in the fun. But the party had to end and then she was alone again.

The heroine arrived home to find that her reflection was now a dark, headless, almost ghost-like image, which she fled, and yet when she returned again to the mirror she saw herself clearly. Perhaps the ghost figure was a premonition of what the future held?

The story continued through the protagonist's life struggles, relayed to the audience through the use of modern, ballet, and jazz motifs. We saw her struggles with the darker side of life on the street, danced like a "West Side Story," complete with Robbins-esque movement. We witnessed more hopeless encounters in the work environment and with the office personnel, including loads of self-doubt encompassing a hopeless outlook. The entire evening moved along with the look and feeling of a Broadway musical run amok from the get go, choreographed in so many styles that it began to look like a dance recital. Although the dancers appeared talented and well trained, they were in no way challenged by the work, which relied on the reprocessing of the same movement patterns.

The premise of this piece, we were told in the program notes, was that violence and criminal behavior would begin to drive this woman's life, and while possessing this new persona, she would continue to see her reflection in the mirror. So when the character discovers a gun in a paper bag and takes possession of it, she begins the transformation into a violent existence. But this makes no sense. She picksup a gun, embraces violence and suddenly she can see her reflection in the mirror? All right, I follow but I don't understand. Why is the gun necessary? We just witnessed that when she danced in her party dress, actually when she wore her fabulous pink party dress, the woman saw her reflection in the mirror and danced for joy. So if she wants to see her reflection, why not just take up dancing and wear a pretty costume? There's some kind of logic going on here that I just don't follow. Something's missing. What's the preoccupation with the gun? Is the gun the message; are guns in general the message? Did the gun seduce her? Enough prognosticating.

The story finally ended with a melodramatic solo: Fujii, dressed in an unflattering black outfit, freed herself from her bleak existence by killing herself with the empowering gun. The show, however, continued on with a final scene that had the look of a grand finale but the trappings of a thematically choreographed curtain call. Few in the audience, including myself, seemed to know whether this splashy presentation was indeed the end, although I for one was more than ready to head out the door. Finally, Fujii appeared, bowed, and we all knew that we could finally depart.

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