Noh Drama and Eiko and Koma Travel Slowly Into Dreams

Japan pervades two dance performances

The heap of feathers has a slight ridge at the center, as if it covers a fallen tree. And this is the barrier over which the two must reach if they are to touch each other. The more severe restriction is that they can’t sit up. Sometimes it seems as if touching—even mating—is their goal, but they neither fully understand how to do it, nor what they’ve accomplished when they do feel each other’s flesh. I think of just-born animals nosing their way to a nipple, falling back, trying again. Or creatures emerging from some primal sleep that has erased their memories. At one point, Koma has brought one knee face to face with Eiko’s lifted knee, and the two knees suddenly look like blind, featureless worms. Because the movement are so minimal, so slow, so controlled, I find my focus shifting like this from the whole picture to details and back. When Koma lifts one hand and moves it slowly toward where Eiko’s lies half-buried, his hand appears to be an independent sentient being.

The room feels alive with anticipation. Do we all wish for the two to connect with some semblance of finality? Eiko’s leg slides along Koma’s, the back of Koma’s hand brushes Eiko’s cheek—gently, clumsily, yet charged with erotic promise—then slips off. These people don’t know how to hold onto anything, nor, seemingly, do they want to.

Katayama Shingo of Kashu-Juki Noh Theater as the living spirit of Lady Rokujo in Aoi No Ue
Courtesy Kash-Juku Noh Theater
Katayama Shingo of Kashu-Juki Noh Theater as the living spirit of Lady Rokujo in Aoi No Ue
Slow cookin': Eiko and Koma in Naked: A Living Installation
Anna Lee Campbell
Slow cookin': Eiko and Koma in Naked: A Living Installation

Details

Kashu-Juku Noh Theater
Japan Society
March 24 through 26
Eiko & Koma: Naked: A Living Installation
Baryshnikov Arts Center
450 West 37th Street
646-731-3224, bacnyc.org
March 29 through April 9

They are slow, but time moves swiftly. When I think I must have been watching them for about 40 minutes, I find that an hour and 20 minutes have passed, and 10 is approaching. I stand and change my angle of vision. Eiko and Koma seem finally to be drawing closer, without any more withdrawals into what could be exhaustion or despair, and to rest with their hands touching. I begin to ache even more for them—for their vulnerability, their clumsiness, their persistence. I feel the prick of incipient tears. An usher quietly tells each of us that it’s time to leave. As I cast a glance backward, I imagine this man and this woman beginning to separate again, and hurry away, hoping that isn’t so.

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