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Flash Review 1, 11-30:
The Sounds of Silence from Eiko and Koma
By Peggy H. Cheng
Copyright 2000 Peggy H. Cheng
All movements emerge
as if pressed into space with careful precision in Eiko and Koma's
"When Nights Were Dark." Seen last night at the Brooklyn Academy
of Music's Harvey Theater, this piece was, as expected, entirely
at the speed of meditation. In this case, the meditative journey
was depicted through a slowly moving caravan upon which Eiko and
Koma, as both individuals and as couple, move. Accompanied by the
chant-like songs composed by Joseph Jennings and sung by the Praise
Choir Singers (Tunesha Crispell, Corey Durham, Conway G. Gittens,
Clifton Hill, and Michelle Hutcherson), this dark night was in that
strange realm of the dream state -- the body arrested in stillness,
the mind working overtime.
Moving at the speed of
meditation does not mean without movement or without great changes
and shifts. With each passing minute, I became more acutely aware
and sensed that things were happening, because time felt like it
was turning, flipping, getting streeeeeetched out -- I began to
look for impressions left in space. It is certainly arguable that
moving at this speed can become self-indulgent on the part of the
performer, unbearable for the audience. In the case of "When Nights
Were Dark" I was, quite simply, taken in by the beauty of the installation
(variously described as a cave, a womb, and a volcano -- all of
which the caravan resembled to me, as well) to a point where I began
to dream along with the two beings in their journey upon the caravan.
Stories, reasons and landscapes passed through my head as the slow
metamorphoses continued: The baring of the vulnerable throat; a
rising and sinking chest; the stark image of a hand rising so slowly
into the air and out of the soft bottom of this giant canopied bed
of moss and twigs; two bare torsos entwining; chins passing then
returning for touch.
The caravan itself glowed
from within. An integral and stunning component of the piece was
lighting designed by Scott Poitras with contributions from Jeff
Fontaine. The light, like Eiko and Koma, came and went as if without
beginning and end, evoking the dream state, bathing the bodies of
Eiko and Koma as they climbed and nestled in the cave/womb. Without
this element the piece may have been lost to many, as it requires
environment and attention to space; this can probably be attributed
to the fact that this dance and its essential component, the caravan,
was a travelling piece that has appeared as performance/installation
in various outdoor sites in both Chicago and New York. The appearance
at BAM's Harvey Theater is the first time this work has "emerged"
on a proscenium stage. Perhaps to address the immobility of the
audience, the pair has directed the caravan to begin upstage, move
downstage, and then rotate over 360 degrees and come off the stage
and seem to hover over the stage apron area before retreating again
into black-out darkness; of course, all at a snail's pace.
My companion for the
evening remarked that video, or a more intimate space may have improved
the viewing experience for him -- in fact, made the whole evening
more interesting. I too would like this experience, to see the details
come into focus. And, I suppose, Eiko and Koma seem to expect that
the viewer can be in a meditative state, open and cleared of clutter.
Mostly though, this was the kind of night that reminded me of the
merits of slowing down and letting yourself indulge in quiet. Out
of this hush your imagination may bloom.
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