In a sense, Japanese classical dance theater and American postmodern dance are both objective. The formality of Kabuki (especially the Fujima approach to it) has the effect of both distancing and intensifying the high emotions expressed in the dramas; feelings are so compressed that we experience them with a kind of deep, interior pang. The contemporary dance that Yokoshi practices—no matter how wild it may get—also asks for a kind of reticence, in which personal feeling shapes a form that in turn expresses it, without calling for naturalistic acting on the part of the dancer.

When we see Sawamura undergoing a crisis of some kind, we may not understand it as an expert might. Watching him stagger slightly, we might wonder whether his character is exhausted, just awakened from a deep sleep, dizzy, or perhaps a little tipsy. Has he just had daunting news? Yet we understand the essence of his movements very well; who has not experienced—and had to battle—a loss of physical or mental equilibrium?

Yokoshi has asked both the Japanese and the American performers to do things that are not usually part of their experience. Pourazar and Alexander are accustomed to moving loosely and freely, out of their own experience; it’s rare that they have to rein in their gestures in order to end in poses, or work within a highly defined discipline. For an actor to touch and support another as Sawamura does for Pourazar is unknown in Kabuki. It’s uncommon for Asaji, Sawamura, and Kayo Seyama to perform separate solos simultaneously as they do in Tyler Tyler. It’s customary for the tiny, fragile, yet steely Seyama (who has assisted Masumi Seyama in preserving this tradition for over 50 years) to perform a poignant solo, as compressed as a haiku, in which she holds—and sometimes lets drop—a white scarf that symbolizes much to her. But it’s surely unusual for her, in the last moments of Tyler Tyler, to perform onstage an equally slow, refined solo wearing pants and a red T-shirt bearing a logo, while Pourazar, in green T-shirt, sits before the tiny piano and sings casually and very quietly Lou Reed’s “Perfect Day.”

Kayvon Purazar and Kuniya Sawamura in Yasuko Yokoshi¹s Tyler Tyler
Alexandra Corazza
Kayvon Purazar and Kuniya Sawamura in Yasuko Yokoshi¹s Tyler Tyler

The five performers are all extraordinary, as they move through this tilting landscape. It’s not only Saegusa’s lighting that renders them luminous. And, however complex Yokoshi’s postmodern weaving, the essential purity of Fujima’s approach pares away all excess. Grappling with an unfamiliar style and a dynamic both dramatically charged and infused with restraint, Alexander and Pourazar—always fine performers—have never seemed so powerful.

In Yokoshi’s earlier Shuffle, she alluded to an accidental drowning in her family. There’s a naval battle in The Tale of the Heike, as well as a perilous sea voyage, and a watery suicide. At several points in Tyler Tyler, Marin Holzman’s video projection fills the back wall with rippling ocean water; sometimes a young Asian girl is swimming and splashing in the shallows. It seems as if Yokoshi’s intuition and creative choices draw on personal imagery and feelings unknown to us in order to create the kind of resonant poetry that renders cultural boundaries porous.

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