This Week in New York Insider's Guide to Arts & Culture in New York City Since 2001

6Mar/11

TWI-NY TALK: EIKO & KOMA

Eiko & Koma will be in New York City this month presenting three very different projects

Tuesday, March 8, Art Work: An Evening with Eiko Otake, the New School, Wollman Hall, 65 West 11th St., free, 6:00
Tuesday, March 15, and Wednesday, March 16, Delicious Movement Workshop, Baryshnikov Arts Center, 450 West 37th St., $65 with preregistration, 7:00
March 29 – April 9, Baryshnikov Arts Center, free with advance RSVP, Tuesday – Friday 6:00 – 10:00 pm, Saturday 3:00 – 9:00 pm
www.eikoandkoma.org

Shortly after meeting as students in Japan in 1971 at the Tatsumi Hijikata dance studio, Eiko Otake and Takashi Koma Otake formed a partnership that is now in its fifth decade. Based in New York City since 1976, Eiko & Koma have presented experimental modern dance and installation indoors and outdoors all over the world, including such highly praised works as White Dance (1976), Grain (1983), Memory (1989), River (1995), The Caravan Project (1999), and Hunger (2008). Having studied with such innovative choreographers as Kazuo Ohno, Lucas Hoving, and Anna Halprin, their own pieces, for which they generally design all elements, including sets, sound scores, and costumes, have earned them NEA, Guggenheim, and MacArthur Foundation Fellowships, two Bessies, and other prestigious awards.

On March 8, Eiko & Koma will give a free illustrated lecture at the New School on their Retrospective Project (2009-12), in which they are looking back over the course of their storied career. On March 15-16, they’ll be holding two Delicious Movement Workshops at the Baryshnikov Arts Center, inviting participants to “move/dance to actively forget the clutter of our lives so to fully ‘taste’ body and mind.” And from March 29 through April 9 they will present the two-week performance piece Naked at BAC, a movement/visual art installation that explores time, desire, and nakedness that was created during a three-month residency at the Park Avenue Armory and first presented at the Walker Art Center last year. Part of Carnegie Hall’s JapanNYC Festival, Naked is free with advance tickets that allow the audience to come and go as they please during specific time periods, watching Eiko & Koma in an organic environment that will be accompanied by a video retrospective. As they prepare for their New York blitz, Eiko discussed the audience-performer dynamic, nakedness, and more in our latest twi-ny talk.

twi-ny: You will be giving an Art Work talk at the New School on March 8, focusing on the Retrospective Project. What has the experience been like looking back at your long career while you're still creating fascinating works for the future?

Eiko: We can remember what we were thinking of, about and how. We are sometimes surprised to find so much of what we do now has started long ago. We did not become wiser or better with age. That is a sort of myth. Instead we see more continuity in what we have done and what we are doing now.

twi-ny: That will be followed March 15-16 with your Delicious Movement Workshop at BAC, targeted not at professional dancers but everyone and anyone. What would you tell someone who knows very little, if anything, about dance about the program? Essentially, why should a dance novice not be scared of taking part in the workshop?

Eiko: Of course they should not be scared, because we have developed a way to make the workshop very inclusive and tasty. It is not so much about dance. it is more about moving in a way that is not too difficult and find a pleasure in it.

Eiko & Koma will perform NAKED at the Baryshnikov Arts Center (photo by Anna Lee Campbell)

twi-ny: Your living installation, Naked, will be presented March 29 - April 9 at BAC, where audiences will come and go as they please. You previously performed the piece at the Walker Art Center. How did the unusual staging affect the performer-audience dynamic?

Eiko: We were very close to people, which created the sense of intimacy. There was no beginning or end but purely entries and exits of people, which audience decided themselves. So there was more of an individual act of seeing and feeling on their own accord.

twi-ny: How did the audience react to the piece, which was not staged like a regular dance performance?

Eiko: Unlike a theater event, people in the museum did not know who we are or what we do. So there was a lot of surprise in seeing human naked bodies moving in a gallery. Some people, of course, did not get into it but surprisingly many people stayed longer than we or they expected. Many people also came back to see it again or bring friends. Some people cried. Some people said it was hard for them to leave us since we did not end anything but we just went on.

twi-ny: What was it like performing to an ever-changing, moving audience, with you and Koma on view as maybe more of a spectacle?

Eiko: I did not feel it was a spectacle. We really enjoyed performing for just a few people since we feel their emotions. It was a special experience for both sides. But when there was no one in the room, it was hard to continue with the same intensity. At the same time we could not stop or rest since at any time people might come in.

twi-ny: You've appeared naked in previous productions, but this one you even title Naked. What is it that draws you to the nakedness you reveal in your work?

Eiko: Nakedness is a bottom line . . . nothing to lose, nothing to protect us, where we become both more human and more like any other creatures.