Financial Times on Platform
photo Ian Douglas

A Body in Places, Danspace Project, New York — ‘Bracing’

  • Financial Times, March 7, 2016
  • Apollinaire Scherr

“Is she dying?” a passer-by asked upon catching sight of Eiko slumped on a bench outside the Liquiteria in New York’s East Village one recent bright, cold morning. The performer’s eyes were dim, her skin pale and her mouth agape.
The answer was yes, in a manner of speaking. As Eiko, the surnameless figure encountered in performance with her partner Koma these past 40 years, she has always been verging on death. These gentle creatures — nested in leaves, buried in mud, swamped in water, barely moving — have brought us up close to the brutal fact of life’s tenuousness.

The current endeavour finds Eiko alone. (Koma is recovering from an injury.) The month-long extravaganza, midwifed by Danspace Project, includes all manner of Eikolalia: a film series, tribute nights, movement workshops, poetry readings, and a marathon memorial event for Fukushima. But the core is Eiko’s site-specific solos, which transpire each weekday at a different hour and spot for three weeks. A small audience gathers outside St Mark’s Church to be escorted to a nearby boutique, bookstore, weaver’s studio, church — wherever Eiko is splayed on the floor like a murder victim or hiding like a ghost.
From there she lurches to life. The three solos I saw were as elemental as Eiko & Koma’s acclaimed work, but between the antipodes of living and dying they tilted more towards life. A decrepit, primitive version, to be sure. Eiko did not walk so much as crawl, hobble and drag. She did not stand as often as she squatted, tottered and sank. But the unpredictability and avarice of her impulses marked her as more animal than vegetable. She gathered her kimono about her as if hoarding treasure, stuffed daisies in her mouth as if she had not eaten in days and spewed them out like poison (though the streaming petals resembled confetti).

“If you are an immigrant,” Eiko explained after one solo, “you are always a visitor.” Close enough for us to touch, this “body in places” was always bracingly out of place.