Gentille—wearing a white kimono and wielding a fan—honors Hanayagi with slow, ceremonious dancing in classical Japanese style; when he suddenly jumps straight up, the effect is almost shocking. Bokaer celebrates her wilder, exploratory side. Against a red-lit background, sometimes silhouetted, he repeatedly races forward as if to bolt, then rushes back thrashing and staggering; when the red gives way to bluish white, he stands motionless, one arm held out to the side.

A pile of slim, white boards is spot-lit downstage, and actions with other boards become a motif, echoing a brief film clip of Hanayagi (I think) gathering up similar ones. Once, Gross (who was involved with Judson Dance Theater and certainly knew Hanayagi) enters slowly, carrying three boards, stops, and hurls them to the floor. Much later, Harper carefully picks some up, holds them for several long moments, and drops them. Bokaer spins with three of them before throwing them down in a sudden brief flash of green light.

All the short scenes are separated by blackouts. None finishes with a climax. It’s as if we were looking over a page of intriguing snapshots, with a moment of nothingness when the page is turned. Sometimes a sharp clack of two sticks precipitates or signals the end of a scene, as in a Kabuki performance. The clarity of the images and the measured pace broken by unexpected explosions bring to mind not only Japanese art forms but Wilson’s own creations. Recalling his early avant-garde pieces, such as Deafman Glance, before he met Hanayagi, I can see why the two fell in artistic love with each other and why that long relationship needed to be remembered and acknowledged.

Robert Wilson’s "KOOL—Dancing in My Mind" with images of Suzushi  
Hanayagi in the background.
Pavel Antonov
Robert Wilson’s "KOOL—Dancing in My Mind" with images of Suzushi Hanayagi in the background.

Details

Robert Wilson
KOOL-Dancing in My Mind
Guggenheim Museum
April 17 through 18

KOOL—Dancing in My Mind will be performed again on August 8 and 9 at East Hampton’s Guild Hall.

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