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Flash Review 1, 3-31: Gender Gap Noodling
Rosy-colored Sex Roles at Columbia College

By Asimina Chremos
Copyright 2000 Asimina Chremos

CHICAGO--Oodles of dee-licious noodles! Gag me with the baby vixen in green! Yum yum sexy...Okay, are you done yet can I go to sleep now?

Rosy Co., led by the wild dancing waterfall Kota Yamazaki, presented yet another Japanese nightclub of the imagination Thursday at the Dance Center of Columbia College. Both Yamazaki and his mentor butoh artist Akira Kasai (who was presented by the Dance Center last week as part of its Two from Tokyo series) seem to have a fascination with club life and the ecstatic states of dance and the body therein. Yamazaki's 80-minute picnic is a free-form paean to "...this free and easy community..." and "...the parallel human relationship without hierarchy..." (Yamazaki, program notes) But damn, the gender gap in this supposed non-hierarchical community made me desperately uncomfortable.

The piece had an imagistic false start of a scene with a white rug, black table and chairs, and a silver hanging ladder. A film of clouds was projected on the rug, and then the lights went off. The dancing started out beautifully in boyland with five hot young men, four Asian and one Cuban, in various stylish gear doing fascinating noodles together and apart, breaking into faces and vocalizations and in general being exuberantly weird freaks. I loved the tall skinny guy in the glasses and tight suit, he was such a lanky rubber band; also the amazing tiny firecracker with the cobra spine and the big black hairdo; the androgynously beautiful liquid one with the shaved monk head and hip-hop attitude; the teddybearish and surprisingly wavy Cuban dancer; and the sly one who did all the jumping rond de jambes and wore a hat. They were all gorgeous, the Backstreet Boys of Japanese modern dance.

There was a group of teenage African-American boys among the mostly Caucasian and Japanese adult audience, who laughed at a lot of the early moments in the work. Nothing like teenagers to temper the seriousness of what could be a pretentiously arty experience! The kids seemed especially giggly at any ass-to-the-audience moments, of which there were initially quite a few. Then there was the vague homoeroticism of the partnering and a whole section of mellow chill-out-room-at-the-rave intermingling rolling on the floor where I was very curious how the youngsters and other less experienced Midwestern dancegoers might be feeling.

In keeping with the watery theme of freedom and community, the phrases performed by the six dancers were of maximum flow and fluidity, sensual and delectable, hip, club-wise and very post-modern. The moves were deeply dimensional in space and there was plenty of adventurous inversion. I don't think I can say enough about how fluid their moving was--it was extraordinary. I was really enjoying the community of young men on the stage. They were all so different from one another and all so juicy and sinuous and clear in their dancing. Their partnering was inventive and gentle if at times unspectacular, and there was a clear sense of individuality without one-upmanship or ego. It seemed Yamazaki was being successful in his desire to create fleeting moments of togetherness, "... a body that is flexible and free..." and "...a 'picnic' in which boys aimlessly hang out..."

At one point, he who appeared to be Yamazaki himself entered for a stunningly beautiful solo. Wearing a thin light blue velvet oversized button-down shirt and loose pajama pants, he wavered and waved like a bubbling brook while Everything But the Girl sang "I want your love, and I want it now." With his bleached blond hair and dark glasses, he seemed like a love-worn Andy Warhol tripping on X in a private moment of poignant bliss.

I'd read in the program that there was "one female dancer" in the work and I began to worry about when she would appear. I sensed she was not to be an equal diner at the hang-out picnic, and was I ever so right. Enter the green baby vixen in a side-slit shiny green skirt and tight baby-t, long brown hair, and socks. Tiny, slender Yuko Okubo (I hope I picked out the right name), proceeded to dance with the same snaky, weighted abandon as the boys; but also to strut around like a tough 12-year -old who just put her smoke out in the school bathroom and is now eyeing all the nervous boys with lust in her soul. She played at the femme fatale, however with her smiling and mugging to the audience I did not get a sense of this character having any personal power or real desire of her own bubbling from within. As the dance progressed, she was lifted, thrown, arched, turned, dipped, and grabbed by each man in the piece and casually moved on to the next. There was no jealousy or attachment in these duets. She seemed like the piece of sexy candy they were all hungry for. They flirted, waited their turns, and had their flings. There was just such a huge difference between how the boys related to each other and how they related to her, choreographically. Her appearance in the piece ruined the illusion of egalitarian ease. I question what the piece was really about.

The denouement of the piece came long after I was interested in scanning the chaotic stage for tasty motion tidbits. I felt the work lost focus after about an hour. Yamazaki did an especially self-indulgent solo to a sound like clock ticking. Later, the white rug was back in place and Okubo re-entered in a crinkly white shift walking in slow motion. She undulated towards the rug, touching her dress. I thought: if she takes her dress off I am going to walk right out of here, but she didn't. She lay down on the rug after a few expert dying swan arm motions. The film of the clouds was projected onto her body. The men danced around more, the music got loud, the lights came up. Okubo got up and walked to a corner, and all the boys collected to pose in the opposite corner and there was a stare-off. Backstreet Boys photo shoot. Finally one of the male dancers went to Okubo, there was a reprise of her coupling with each of the boys in a group on the rug. Finally, they all walked upstage together into the darkness. No one ever sat at the black table, or climbed the silver ladder.

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