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Eiko and Koma - Regeneration

by Joanna G. Harris
March 22, 2012
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
701 Mission Street
San Francisco, CA 94103
415.978.ARTS (2787)
Joanna G. Harris
Author, Beyond Isadora: Bay Area Dancing, 1916-1965. Regent Press, Berkeley, CA, 2009. Contributor to reviews on culturevulture.net
Eiko and Koma first came to the United States in in 1976. They had been invited that year by the Japan Society to perform "White Dance" in New York. On the invitation of Irene Oppenheim, a Dance Magazine correspondent in San Francisco, they performed at Gumption, an alternative school in the city. Oppenheim says, "I had simply never experienced anything quite like this…their fierceness, how elemental they were…the sounds they made…". Today, thirty-five years later, having acquired world fame, Eiko and Koma are still marvels to behold.

For their return to San Francisco this year the pair presented three works March 22-24 at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts' Forum building in a program entitled Regeneration. These were "Raven" (2010), "Night Tide" (1984) and an excerpt from "White Dance" (1976). Each piece was unique in its own way, but there was a continuum in all. The characteristics of all these dances were they were very slow dynamically with minute movement, gestures, and transitions. They also used specific facial expressions and vocalized sound. Yes there was nudity; one notices and ignores it since it is greater in expression than in exhibition.

Eiko was the more expressive and lyrical of the couple. Her slow unfolding in "Raven", her use of hands and feet and the detail of covering and uncovering her body imparted deep emotion. In "White Dance", a work originally 55 minutes long, here lasting 30 minutes, she wore a soft, spattered dress, and lifted her arms in a powerful manner, recalling Mary Wigman. In "Night Tide", her bare back and slow rolling towards her partner, Koma, had great strength and dignity. Koma appeared in all as a counteracting force, sometimes striking, sometimes retreating, and often simply balancing Eiko's actions.

Although the program notes suggest various interpretations of their work, it is best left to the audience to respond to their own feelings as these unique Butoh masters accomplish their evocations. Eiko and Koma continue to be exceptional performers in their masterful style.
Eiko in 'White Dance'

Eiko in "White Dance"

Photo © & courtesy of Anna Lee Campbell

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