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Flash Review 2, 3-31:
Gender Gap Noodling, Too
Sex-role Reversal at P.S. 122
By Paul Ben-Itzak
Copyright 2000 The Dance Insider
While Asimina was gagging
over the baby vixen in green in Chicago (Flash
Review 1, 3-31: Gender Gap Noodling), meanwhile, a gender gap
away, I was trying to figure out the girl-toy in business suit in
New York. Only where Asimina's vamp was the offspring of a male
Asian choreographer, my Chippendale came out of the brain of a female,
Yasuko Yokoshi, whose "Travel Theory" opened at P.S. 122 Thursday.
Guys and gals: Do we have some issues here?
When the trio of women
in white tops and black skirts appeared to start the dance, my first
reaction was: "Damn. I am not the man to Flash Review this piece."
This was dance of high kinetic order-emphasis on all three of those
words-and my ability at describing same is low. Where were Tom,
Chris, Asimina, Susan, and Peggy when I needed them? (Okay, Asimina
was hanging with the baby vixen, but you get my point.) As you may
have observed, describing actual dance phrases is not my strong
suit; I tend to gravitate towards the social, the theatrical, the
poetic, the extra-stage action--anything I can do to avoid having
to give you a blow-by-blow. But by the end of this dance, it dawned
on me that at least in one fashion I was the perfect man to review
this piece, for I was the target.
In the beginning, tho,
it wasn't only the kinetics that proved challenging to me. Let me
re-phrase: The kinetics seemed daunting to describe, but I liked.
The women seemed to be practicing or evoking some sort of routine
or morning school drill--an exercise, if you will. This was riveting
to me. Where I started getting lost is when they broke into speech.
First, a lot of it was in Japanese, which I don't know. When the
English was introduced, its theme was the evident cruelty of two
of the women, played by Mutsuyo Omatsu Isaacs and Nami Yamamoto,
towards the third, played by Yokoshi.
"Sachiko likes Naomi,
but I don't like her because she smiles all the time," Yamamoto
tells us, as the three sit on clear plastic boxes. "But Naomi is
Sachiko's servant, because she follows all her orders." Sure enough,
Yamamoto and Isaacs then get up and, using one of the tall glasses
each woman has held for part of the dance, mix up a concoction of
soy sauce, salt, chili peppers, rice wine vinegar, oyster sauce,
ketchup, mayonnaise, and monosodium glutamate, which they order
Yokoshi to drink. She does, smiling. The first time, it all dribbles
out. The second, she swallows.
My attention increased--perhaps
because I could identify with him more, but also perhaps because
of his charisma--with the entrance of Kazu Nakamura, attired in
tan business suit and carrying a clear plastic suitcase with a white
cowboy hat inside. As a shadowed square flitters on a screen upstage
(video montages were designed by Dean Moss, who co-directed), Nakamura
describes, with his forceful, sharp, jutty movement, a sort of western
noir business type. He mugs, huffs, dons the cowboy hat, and removes
When the three women
return, they're dressed, primly and provocatively, in schoolgirl
suits. (My perception.) As Nakamura stays seated on his suitcase,
one of them tells us about a 23-year-old woman "who's married to
a businessman who likes to get blow jobs. A while ago she invited
her ex-boyfriend for a triple-play with her husband," since he was
no longer able to satisfy her. "She's looking for a man to satisfy
her," the woman tells us. "Are you interested? She can't go out
with you, but you can exchange videotapes." This is where Nakamura
becomes a girl toy.
As he stares forward
in blank studly manner, they mime stroking his, you know, and he
stimulates stimulation by thrusting his cowboy hat in front of him.
They giggle and start chanting, "Triple sex! Triple sex!" Matters
continue this way for a while, with Yokoshi manipulating him: She
straddles his lap and makes him spank her; she pulls his hand under
and through her crotch; then she smells his hand. This sequence
is repeated. You get the drift.
There's a romp of a sequence
where all four do a karioki that evolves into a Chippendale thang,
with Nakamura removing his jacket and the women screaming; they
ultimately strip him to his underwear.
What's it all about,
The cowboy hat, the Clint
Eastwood-y man without a name posturing, and the title of the piece,
"Travel Theory," suggest to me that this may have something to do
with how Western men relate to and/or perceive Asian women. (Travel
Theory referring to cross-cultural relations.) Or it may be a reverse
on that, turning the man into the sex object. Of course, that I
am a Western man who, um--here comes the racialist in me, folks--is
particularly attracted to Asian women may also inform this interpretation.
Am I sensing myself and my ilk being sent up here? Or am I sensing
the shoe being put on the other foot: Is Yokoshi throwing beefcakes
at us to counteract the Rosy Co.'s Kota Yamazaki's baby vixens?
I think Yokoshi is offering us not honey, but a brew of soy sauce
and vinegar, with a healthy dollop of that oyster sauce. Hard to
swallow for this Western man, ideologically, but as political dances
go--and, in my view, most of them go away from being actual art--Yokoshi,
in "Travel Theory," has crafted an interesting, well-structured
real dance on a socio-political theme, a rare success for attempted
dances of that ilk.
"Travel Theory" continues
through Sunday. For more information, please go back to the Home
Page and click on the P.S. 122 ad on the right banner.
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