Performing Tree Song
Tree Song celebrated trees, their memories and their endurance. We usually started the preparation by looking for a tree that inspired us. For the dead people in Japan, trees are portals, doorways that enable us to leave this world and move to the next. In America’s south, trees reminded people of lynching. In either case, trees are absorbing memories that they may not even want to have. Trees do not walk away from their troubles or illnesses. So we came to trees to hear them. We start this evening by lying down seemingly dead while our audience slowly gathers. Decomposing, dreaming, or crying? Our assistant sets fire to a bundle of white flowers and cut greens making them burn with flame and smoke showing the movement of the air. The smell of burning flowers makes this time and place special. When we start to move, our movements are of roots digging further down and trunks remembering their cut branches, enduring.
We performed Tree Song in two different sites in the American Dance Festival in 2003.At one site was a huge upright tree which was very manly. He appeared stately and upright but when I leaned his trunk gave in nicely and stretched a little further upward. At the other site there was a humongous magnolia tree that sprawled like a big hand reaching out in many different directions. The inner curve of the trunks and low but rich extensions of branches and leaves made the center area a mysterious womb. This maleness and femaleness of every landscape is an important subtext of our site works. The maleness and femaleness of Eiko & Koma and of the audience members can be liberated and rejuvenated when we dance intimately with another species -- a big magnolia flower petals that fell during the performance and fireflies that gathered after the show. Everything in nature has both maleness and femaleness and every relationship can be sensual.
When we brought the work to Danspace Project, dancing in the St Mark’s Church’s graveyard , we missed these sensual, big trees we performed with in North Carolina. There were many trees in the graveyard, but none too impressive. Then we had an idea. If we could not find a tree for which and with which we wanted to dance, we can always imagine a tree that had been or would be there;, At every outdoor site or even in theaters, we can always remember a tree that was once there for a very long time. This realization made performing in a graveyard make more sense. We were to listen to the dead and see their spirits as a part of the landscape; why not then also see a magnificent tree that was once there? Or trees that were cut before their full growth? The present always includes past and future possibilities. This is something we can carry as we go around, see things, improvise, choreograph, and perform. What and who was there before? Who might be waiting there to come?
Read more about Tree Song.