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Flash Review 2, 6-23:
'When Nights Were Dark'
Dreaming Alone With Eiko and Koma
By Byron Woods
Copyright 2000 Byron Woods
DURHAM, NC -- Lyrical,
mythic, elusive, and sidereal -- let those potent adjectives start
the description of "When Nights Were Dark," Eiko and Koma's fantastic
evening-length work whose expanded version premiered at Durham's
American Dance Festival this week. In this new book of slow and
subtle changes, the duo took a mostly willing audience into a different
time zone, as usual.
But a different destination
awaited our discovery. In recent years, Eiko and Koma's Butoh-influenced
meditations have been particularly grounded in explorations of the
natural world like 1996's "River" and last year's "Snow."
By contrast, "When Nights
Were Dark" explores the interior landscape of dream. After a brief
introductory section in what appeared to be fluctuating, underwater
light, the pair inhabit an enigmatic, evocative and mobile set of
their own design. Fashioned from multicolored fabric and driftwood,
and only gradually illuminated, the dark red, white, gray and black
environment surrounding them suggests an interior at once both organic
and fantastic, pulled from the pages of speculative fiction. As
this little world slowly rotates, its two separate parts suggest
a number of things: a cave with gray and white stalactites, a bower
with moss hanging overhead -- or a surreal bed with canopy. Other
sections suggest a birth chamber, or a bier; a bed of coals, or
a field of ice; a coral reef pulsating with sea anemones, or the
interior of the womb. This range of environments is largely suggested
through Scott Poitras and Jeff Fontaine's prismatic, evocative lighting.
Given the gradual disclosure
of these places, the first challenge involves locating the dancers
in them, separating human from non-human. From there the two seem
to explore dreams both individual and shared -- at least to a point.
At places, their tentative, close proximity work suggests the lovers
Paolo and Francesca in the sculptures of Rodin: contact without
consummation; an embrace that by definition can never be complete.
At times we dream of others, these sections seem to say; yet, we
always dream alone.
Joseph Jennings's hypnotic,
wordless score for five singers made of human voices something warm,
rich and strange. Where they didn't eerily suggest muted trumpets,
trombones or bass flute, the slow, sensual long tones recalled in
places the work of Louis Andriessen and Arvo Part, occasionally
intermixed with gospel or blues modulations. At one point during
the performance I wrote "Is this what aurora borealis sounds like?"
It's as apt a description as any, for music as meditative and compelling
as the visual world that slowly unfolded before us.
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