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InfiniteBody Part 4: DonChristian | Eiko + Koma

My Eiko Journal: Part 4

  • InfiniteBody, March 9, 2016
  • Eva Yaa Asantewaa

Eiko's A Body in Places
Tuesday, March 8 -- 7pm

Tonight is not necessarily about linking the work of Eiko and DonChristian but considering their perspectives side by side. Through this intergenerational conversation around institutionalized forms of violence and inequality, I hope we can reach a more nuanced and empathetic understanding of our present moment.
--Lydia Bell, co-curator of Danspace Project's A Body in Places

Although he studied with Eiko at Wesleyan University, DonChristian--painter, rap/R&B artist and producer--does not claim to be, in his words, "a mover." For her part, Eiko eshews the label "professor," preferring to think of herself as "a working artist who teaches." However they identify themselves, the non-academic likely approves of the way the non-dancer surveyed the difficult realities faced by young Black men at risk in a violent America in his short solo Remembering "Egg Box".

DonChristian, a guest artist for Eiko's A Body in Places platform at Danspace Project, journeyed through Eiko's installation in St. Mark's sanctuary. Stooped and vibrating, he crept down the sanctuary steps, around its outskirts, among canvases hung to serve as video screens, past costumes and props from Eiko's various solos. These items laid down a pathway--or a gentle, atmospheric surround--with a touch of ritual magic to their presence.

He surveyed as a barefoot youth pulling thick rope behind him, a rope tied around his waist and, with our history, there can be no mistaking the significance of Black Man + Rope.  He might be an Eiko-styled ghost-in-places or, at best, an escapee--the rope remaining, though.

A few surprising musical accents--Anita Baker's "Caught Up in the Rapture" and Antonio Carlos Jobim's "A Felicidade" from Black Orpheus--infuse the solo with an air of sensuality and tenderness. "Escape," then, suggests the slipping of imposed, internalized restraints that bind body and mind, the offer of a freer way for Black men to see themselves and interact in the world.

I wished for better clarity of sound for DonChristian's vocals, but he and Eiko made their meanings clear later in the post-performance chat moderated by Danspace Project's Lydia Bell. Guest curator Shin Otake--son of Eiko and Koma, and DonChristian's friend at Wesleyan--also spoke of the interconnection of state violence and intimate violence: "No violent incident is isolated [but is] embedded, generation to generation, in our DNA."

Eiko and DonChristian share an interest in getting at the root of this trauma, a wound central to the American origin story and so many stories around the world. "Her practice alone makes me want to work harder," he said. She taught him to "find the light, feel the light that's on your body." When he felt daunted by the invitation to create a responding solo for the platform, she encouraged him. "She told me, 'Make this work thinking that I'm your aunt.' She's an extension of my family."

Yes, and by the time A Body in Places concludes in a few more weeks, we'll all feel that way about Eiko.