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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 it.

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, Alphie?

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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