Thursday, December 14, 2017

Darkness into light: Kota Yamazaki at Baryshnikov Arts Center

Julian Barnett in Darkness Odyssey Part 2: I or Hallucination,
Raja Feather Kelly and Mina Nishimura in background
(photo: Stephanie Berger)

Philosophy, dance, and folklore merge in Bessie Award-winning choreographer Kota Yamazaki’s latest work inspired by French writers Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, butoh pioneer Tatsumi Hijikata’s notion of a “dance of darkness,” and Japan’s Goze music tradition. Darkness Odyssey Part 2: I or Hallucination explores the fragile body, the vaporizing body, and the body as an absorbing force.
--from promotional material for Darkness Odyssey Part 2: I or Hallucination

Mina Nishimura (foreground) with Raja Feather Kelly
(photo: Stephanie Berger)

I started watching Kota Yamazaki/Fluid hug-hug's new dance, Darkness Odyssey Part 2: I or Hallucination, by drawing a diagram of each dancer's position along the floor of Baryshnikov Arts Center's Gilman space. So one corner of my notebook page now resembles a star map. It also includes an arrow representing Kota's delayed entrance and indicating the direction in which, for most of the dance, his prone body will rest, alongside the outer edge of the special floor mat. And I drew a little, three-lined flap hanging just above the stars. That's for the sheer, opalescent fabric dipping low over the space (like the costumes and, indeed, the choreography, the inexplicably whimsical handiwork of Kota Yamazaki). It seems arbitrarily placed and more decorative than functional--say, as a space divider. But then, to be decorative is a function, and the fabric catches, liquifies and softly reflects a portion of Thomas Dunn's lighting. Even silence seems to have a function destabilized by the patter of dancers' feet on the surface. Later, Kenta Nagai's music will emerge--at first, a distance whistling seemingly from two sources and then a muffled chiming. 

Yamazaki's dancers--Julian Barnett, Raja Feather Kelly, Joanna Kotze and Mina Nishimura, all seasoned dancemakers in their own right--spend much of the time in relative proximity to but isolation of one another, each suspended in a specific portion of space, maybe slowly...slowly...shifting weight and gaze and, eventually, location. Limbs jutting or retracted, taking a few steps here or there on the balls of their feet, go their own way and mind their own business in that way aquarium fish have. And we watch them in a similar fashion. I quickly realized Yamazaki was splitting up the imagery so I'd have to make a choice. Most often I chose Barnett, a dancer who turned into a volatile madman as the piece went along, his nearly-comical agitation so propulsive that he stormed the audience...twice!

At one point, facing the black back curtain, Kotze muttered something we all could hear but, I'm sure, not make out. That was fine with me, because I doubt Yamazaki wanted us to try to understand it any more than he needed any other pop-up scrap of speech to make contextual sense.

The hour-or-so "hallucination" is part of a planned trilogy, and I missed Part 1, which is probably okay in the overall scheme of things. It has a fishy relationship to clock time and a (suspected) protagonist who, intriguingly, stays out of sight at first and then stays out of action for almost the entirety of it. And the piece winds down with wondrous Dunn lighting that bathes increasingly serene dancers in the cool gold of morning.

Darkness Odyssey Part 2: I or Hallucination continues tonight and Friday, December 15 with performances at 7:30pm. For information and tickets, click here.

Baryshnikov Arts Center
450 West 37th Street, Manhattan

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