Friday, January 16, 2015

The Pen Thief

Well, actually, from all accounts, there are two of them--Trajal Harrell and Eiko Otake.

Both award-winning, internationally-renowned dance artists. Both of Japanese descent--Harrell by way of one distant ancestor. Both of whom have presented work at the Museum of Modern Art where, last night, they met for the first time for Harrell's much-desired "blind date," introduced and ably chaperoned by LMCC prez Sam Miller.

So, about the pens. Harrell admitted that if he's handed a pen to sign papers, he's liable to just tuck that pen away for safekeeping. Otake, quickly raising her pen in the air, confessed to the same larcenous trait. As a huge fountain pen aficionado, I can tell you, I plan to keep both of these people at arm's length. You do not steal pens from me and live to make art another day. Fair warning.

The most exciting thing about the Harrell-Otake conversation, part of American Realness 2015, was the chance to hear Otake speak at length about her relationship to Japan--apparently, a challenging one. In 1972, with her husband, Koma Otake, she left behind Japan's master-disciple system to craft an independent practice. When she returns to her homeland now, she finds herself getting angry.

"Being angry is very important to me," she said. "It pushes me."

Along with that anger comes feelings of grief and remorse. "And I don't want to be released from that," she added.

Anger can be fuel. I was amazed to hear Otake's statement as I shared the same insight, just hours before, with another choreographer. When we shame and seek to scrub ourselves of these troubling energies--which the viewer can readily see in Eiko and Koma's demanding, uncompromising work--what creativity do we end up washing away?

American Realness: Discourse, now through Sunday, January18

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