Although newspaper reviews are not typically considered important archival documents, Eiko & Koma’s press binders tell a crucial part of their story that is not available through other materials. Reviews demonstrate the vast range of their performance venues and the extent to which they performed in small towns, not just major cities. More crucially, a collection of reviews is evidence of the contexts of the performances and how Eiko & Koma were being thought about at various times and places. Headlines like “Orient Expressions” (Chicago Reader, September 19, 1980) or “Two Japanese Dancers Have Assimilated Here” (Santa Cruz Sentinel September 28, 1979) reveal the discourses and stereotypes within which Eiko & Koma’s choreography was performed. Particularly fascinating are the small town papers that give candid assessments of the dances; a headline in The Daily Democrat (Woodland-Davis, CA) declared “Fur Seal boring, but intriguing” (August 11, 1977), while the Raleigh, North Carolina News & Observer calls “Eiko and Koma’s dancing slow, draining” (July 10, 1985.) The collection also shows what other dancers critics are thinking about in relation to the pair and indicates presenters’ trends, such as when Eiko & Koma were being presented or thought about alongside (white) postmodern performers versus Japanese artists.
Eiko & Koma always want the audience to be partners with them in creating the meaning of the dance. Their extensive collection of reviews – including eight binders grouped by dance, and a large, chronological file drawer – testify to their success, providing evidence not merely of where the duo have performed, but what they’ve provoked, evoked, and permitted in viewers.
Photographs may show the most ideal and idealized images of their work – moments frozen in time, in which we can still see evidence of movement and longing. But reviews tell us what the piece did, at least to and with the reviewer.