Sunday, October 14, 2007

Rolling in Dirt with Eiko and Koma

My daughter Natalie tells me that only freshman pronounce the "Wang" in The Wang Center with an "a" so I learned "it's wong to say wang" and now when you visit Stony Brook University, you can sound smarter than a freshman.

Natalie is taking a movement class and one of the visiting dancers, Eiko, of Eiko and Koma, taught her class warm-up exercises. She rolled gently on the floor and showed them all how to stretch like animals in "delicious movements." Natalie said Eiko was a lovely old hippie who mentioned her sons were embarrassed by having parents perform in the nude.

"Eiko and Koma," my husband said, "I saw them once, they roll around naked very very slowly, you go into a zen-like state watching them. Hmmmm, I'll stay at your parent's house and read science magazines with your dad." So I went to the Wang with my daughters.

The title was Mourning, it wasn't going to be jolly. We were seeing it in previews, the premier will be October 18th at the Japan Society, New York City.

The stage was covered in thick dirt. Two semi-clad middle aged people lay on the dirt. A tree-like prop hung in the back of the stage. Off in the wings a woman, Margaret Leng Tan, sat at two pianos, one a grand, the other a toy. Which reminded me of a dog show with big and toy breeds except dogs don't have 88 keys. Of course toy pianos don't have 88 keys either and I wasn't close enough to count the octaves of wee keys...

After a long wait, in which I heard a great deal about shopping at a Long Island Mall from people sitting behind me, the man and woman began to roll very very slowly in the dirt. The rolling and movements changed and the music changed I was aware that Eiko and Koma were exploring natural and unnatural, human and animal, experiences of death and, finally, recovery and rebirth. The rebirth involved some fresh leafy branches that they carried and rolled through. Do they get scratched I wondered.

The zen-like state, as experienced by this viewer, was very close to nodding off, which my daughters observed with stifled mirth. They particularly liked how I made it look as if I was tilting my head to see better.

Tan's artistry on toy piano was surprisingly moving and odd and memorable.

We stayed for the Q&A since Natalie's class was there and expecting to write a report. Some people asked if it was all spontaneous. How odd that anyone should think so, it was clear to me that everything was choreographed, thought out, designed. Eiko and Koma were warm and humorous.

We agreed that if we saw it again we'd get more out of it. Like mime or shadow puppets, a new art form that takes getting used to.

"How was it?" Asked the stay-at-homes.

"Slow, slow rolling," I replied.

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