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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Eiko and Koma Break Boundaries

Posted by on Wed, Jun 27, 2007 at 9:40 AM

Eiko, the female half of the Eiko and Koma partnership, said last night after their performance, “We pride ourselves in being able to provide, if not the same look, then the same quality of work” to everyone.

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“I like to play with this idea of providing the same quality no matter the price [of the ticket],” she continued. Adhering to this philosophy, Eiko and Koma simplify the logistics of their dances as much as possible. In addition to choreographing, directing, and dancing all their pieces of the last thirty years (the premiere exception being their presentation of “Grain” this year), Eiko and Koma have often designed and executed their own sets, costumes, and sound scores. The immense success of their work allows them the luxury of sharing their work for free, regularly performing at outside venues, and providing entire videos of their pieces on their website.

Their philosophy belies their truest intentions to work: they are artists, above all else. Their dances are meditative, an experience for the audience rather than a show. Eiko and Koma’s fragile, calculated movements are each given the weight and the time they deserve, as if each separate movement where a student graduating from college whose hand you must shake. As Eiko and Koma move you can see that every muscle in their body, including their face, is alert and feeling. The result is a primordial calm that seems to draw its power from deep within the caverns of the earth and its memories. When asked, in an interview on their website, about the interpretation of their work they responded, “We are not very interested in interpretation. Rather, we want people to feel something, without the need to define it right away. We wish that people can see into our dance some ancient memory--that they do not remember from when and where. We hope that the audience will feel like they have been in this memory, or at least connected to it a long time ago.”

This year’s performance of “Grain”, which Eiko and Koma originally performed in 1983, is performed by two Cambodian dancers, Charian and Peace. It is the first time that Eiko and Koma have taught someone else a dance they originally performed.

Charian, who is 17, and Peace, who is 18, are remarkably young to have achieved such a feat. Eiko stressed however, in the post-performance discussion, that this decision was something that evolved throughout their years working with Charian and Peace, and that originally, Charian and Peace chose to work with them, and not the other way around. Charian and Peace each said in the discussion, in slow but persevering English, that they don’t always understand the movements that they do, especially in “Grain”. Charian said, “I try to put movement and feeling together. When I first started [dancing], I didn’t feel.” (Eiko proudly nodded her head in agreement as Charian said this.)

Charles Reinhart, Director of ADF, first saw Eiko and Koma perform “Grain” in 1983. He said in an interview that he immediately asked them to perform in ADF. He said, “We like people who break the boundaries of this American indigenous art form”, speaking on modern dance, with regard to Eiko and Koma’s work. Eiko and Koma’s decision to teach someone else to perform their work was due in large part to the encouragement from Reinhart. Reinhart discusses their decision to pass on their work to other, younger dancers, adding that “even [Eiko and Koma] haven’t figured out a way to be immortal yet.”

“The way the two young kids do “Grain” [is] different, but very interesting, and that’s what keeps great art going.”

Eiko and Koma's final performance of ADF is tonight at 8 p.m. in Reynolds Industries Theater.

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