The Performing Garage, New York, NY
October 14–23, 2004
Reviewed by Susan Yung
Koosil-ja’s thought-provoking new solo, deadmandancing EXCESS, borrows a concept from The Wooster Group, which makes its home in this shopworn space (and with which the dancer/choreographer performs at other times): using tools such as electronic media and industrial-looking elements as flexible sets. Although it makes no political declarations, the work touches on society’s desensitization to death from overexposure in film and the media, not dissimilar to a daily tally of war deaths.
A motley bank of 34 televisions sat upstage. Roughly half displayed an image—often a movie clip, but sometimes simply a pretty picture of the sky—the other half streamed text. (One TV sporadically received a local channel’s baseball broadcast, a reality check.) The deconstructed film segments featured death scenes—from Philadelphia to Kill Bill to a samurai shot full of arrows—re-enacted by koosil-ja in meticulously choreographed scenes that mimicked the onscreen action. A few monitors located behind the audience showed the film clips with text and images combined, viewable by craning one’s neck.
Koosil-ja, a performer of great magnetism, entered behind the TVs and stared at the audience with an agitated gaze. Then she launched into action, tearing across the stage or acting out a violent shooting scene before staggering to the floor. During the many brief scenes—some half a minute or less—and even the transitions, she maintained a solemn focus. She pared every move down to its essence and made a “costume change” by unfurling a scarlet kimono sleeve from a small pouch at her side. She also danced lyrical phrases that lent an air of innocence to the general mood of the scene. Moving like an excited child to a voiced-over explication of an opera aria, she flapped her arms and arched her back dramatically.
Along with the death theme, the work also broached the idea of simulacra: that imitations can be place markers for the real thing. A certain amount of authentic sensation can be summoned in theater imitating film imitating life, but, the choreographer seems to be saying, there’s no substitute for reality.
For more information: www.dancekk.com