inkBoat

inkBoat
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Forum
San Francisco, CA
August 6–14, 2004
Reviewed by Ann Murphy

 

A couple, bound for the opera, wandered into the Forum by mistake, then dashed out minutes before inkBoat’s latest production, Ame to Ame (Candy and Rain) began. Had they stayed, they would have found the U.S. premiere of Shinichi Momo Koga and Yuko Kaseki’s work operatic in its own way. While the only libretto was a panoply of keen gestures, extreme facial expressions, and Harpo-style physical maneuvers, the dancers’ bodies sang out the physical equivalent of songs—broken, dissonant, and often hilarious. Although there was no translation of these nonverbal arias, the dancers formed a portrait of mysterious yearning and frustration that was by turns comic, lyrical, ghoulish, and haunting.

InkBoat’s performers and collaborators, who work in both San Francisco and Berlin, push butoh away from ankoku butoh (the post-World War II dance of darkness) toward the more intimate form of “one dancer, one school” and “cheerful apocalypse” that was developed by Akaji Maro of Dairakudakan. While death still lurks, Koga, Kaseki, and director/choreographer/lighting designer Marc Ates use it to wrestle the solitary angels and lonely demons of self and other rather than nuclear apocalypse.

And wrestle they did. In white light ethereally littered with a white chair, table, and stool, the dancers, also in white, careered through space like sleepwalkers whose separate dreams repeatedly collided. Kaseki teetered across the stage, Koga caught and turned her, and eventually the pair moved on with affectless drama. From beautifully crafted dreamy vignettes, accompanied by intriguing, edgy sound (by Sheila McCarthy, Dawn McCarthy, Carla Kihlstedt, and Nils Frykdahl), the couple exploded into grotesque play, bouncing belly to belly, high-stepping, flailing, and grimacing. From there they swung back into movement of refined sensitivity and timing, as when Kaseki sensuously laid her hands and head down on the tabletop and Koga pulled the table out from under her, leaving her poised exactly as she had been, now framing negative space. One of the most moving, tender moments of the evening arose when Koga used the three white props as stepping-stones for a somnolent Kaseki’s blind travel, the two like clowns in a wordless Beckett play.

“On a good day, candy falls like rain,” a voice said. “Ame” means “candy” as well as “rain,” and both are often sweet and welcome. So was this performance.

For more information: www.inkboat.com

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