I LIKE Karole Armitage's new piece
Why is everyone so down on Karole Armitage? In the first five minutes of Itutu it’s clear that the white girls of her company do not dance like the black singer/dancers of Burkina Electric. But the heart of the piece is a three-time refrain that’s a duet between Megumi Edo of Armitage Gone! Dance and Zoko Zoko, of the band, which is from Burkina Faso in Africa.
These gentle and riveting duets emerge from the big patterns and party-type atmosphere of Itutu. The first time they almost touch but turn away from each other. The second time they touch, and the third time they entwine. Edo is a fantastic dancer and she is just being her poetic self in these duets, not trying to be African. Yes, she does plenty of over-the-top extensions, but Karole loves leggy dancers and always has. Megumi does other lovely things with her body like floating, scissoring, and wilting. And Zoko Zoko is grounded and undulating and there for her. Two people from two completely different cultures, honoring their cultures through their bodies, gradually getting together. The third duet especially is odd and sensual and beautiful. These three sequences are up there with some of the best duets Armitage has made (like the strange and unforgettable one for Leonides Arpon and Theresa Ruth Howard in Ligeti Essays—the piece with the frozen tree—and like the one between Valerie Madonia and Brian Chung in Time is the echo of an axe within a wood).
Armitage has been bold in her choice of music and visuals in this new piece at BAM. Usually very spare with both, she’s chosen a West African band that plays irresistibly danceable music (Lukas Ligeti, the son of Gyorgi Ligeti, is in the band), and vibrant, in-you-face backdrops that looks like man-eating foliage by Philip Taaffe. She surrounds her dancers with color. If it’s not instantly transporting, it’s still interesting from start to finish.
Pictured (left to right): Megumi Edo, Wendes K. Blass (guitar) and Leonides D. Arpon. Photo by Julieta Cervantes, Courtesy BAM