Wednesday, March 2, 2016

My Eiko journal: Part 1

Flower from Eiko
(photo: Eva Yaa Asantewaa)

Eiko's A Body in Places
Tuesday, March 1 -- 12pm

For my initial engagement with A Body in Places--Danspace Project's massive, multifaceted new platform--I join a group of people assembled at the gate of St. Mark's Church and await word of where to meet dance soloist Eiko. At noon, Danspace staff guide us across Second Avenue to a corner by Liquiteria, the juice/smoothies emporium. And there is Eiko, perched on Liquiteria's outdoor bench, wrapped in clothing of thin, vulnerable fabrics and a small comforter, feet in flipflops, scant defense against the late-winter chill. I'm certain that if my neighborhood noticed her at all, people would assume her to be homeless and pay no mind.

Those of us gathered with a purpose, though, we're rapt. This is Eiko who inserts her dancing body into places and makes you think about things you usually do not see. Eiko whose way of creating a separate channel for time adds dimension to the everyday. Stop and think. Stop and feel. Stop.

We stop. Gaze at her. She gazes back. She rises, silently draws us around the corner. She curves her comforter up into the air; her reach is small, vulnerable. She crouches near the pavement, near a parked taxicab, its driver alert to the presence of a woman with claw-like fingers and comforter lined in royal purple. She bunches it up against the bark of a tree. She bunches it up against her face and appears to grieve.

Arching. Stretching. Twisting. Trotting. Sudden cracks of hard slipper heels against concrete and garbage cans. Pretty soon, drivers stopped in traffic are looking; pedestrians, stopping and looking.

Ha-hah! Made you look!

Her ultimate destination? Kathy Kemp's tiny clothing and jewelry design boutique, ANNA, at 330 East 11th Street. Eiko has placed a few white flowers on the ground by the storefront. Some flowers will end up in her mouth, their petals spit out and scattered. She's less squeamish than I would be on these seriously skanky streets. She staggers, flinging petals, a stem. She heads through ANNA's screen door, most of her audience in tow.

We arrange ourselves around a small, rectangular table draped with several gold necklaces draped across it. We file past a rack of clothes, wondering how Eiko chose this delicate site and negotiated its use. Kemp stands by with her charming little dog resting quietly in her arms, its neck wrapped in chunky pearls.

Eiko fits herself into narrow space between curtained dressing rooms. We watch her and her reflection in the mirror. Beneath a sheer, dark tunic, she reveals the pink and salmon print of her underskirt. She emerges from this slot in space, pushes past a rack of clothes, tottering backward, humming to herself.

She seems alien, her body language foreign to these parts, her regard of her surroundings a sorrowful one on its way to self-abasement and erasure since it cannot accept what it perceives. Anyway, that's what I get and, at the same time, I'm feeling the following: "These fabrics and colors are really kinda nice. I wonder how much...."

The solo winding down, Eiko draws us back out into the noise of school kids at recess. She holds a flower out to me, and I take it. I realize that I want it. Very much. I'm hoping I won't have to give it back. And, as it happens, I won't have to. That makes me inexplicably happy. I'll take it home, just around the corner, down the avenue.

Eiko looks into traffic, crosses the street, does what I expected she would do. At first, her presence at the schoolyard fence seems to make the kids drift off. But, after a while, they watch before Eiko turns to us and sort of shoos us away before disappearing eastward.

*****

My Eiko journal will continue with reflections on Eiko's Delicious Movement workshop today and another site-specific A Body in Places solo in an undisclosed location. Check back for more.

*****

Eiko's A Body in Places platform continues at Danspace Project and other venues through March 23. There's so much going on in this platform's programming, that Danspace Project is actually offering consultation with a docent to help you get your bearings. Really. For detailed information, click here.

Danspace Project
St. Mark's Church in-the-Bowery
131 East 10th Street (at Second Avenue), Manhattan
(map/directions)

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