The Summer Dance Beat Begins With Ghost Festival

  • Vineyard Gazette, May 25, 2016
  • Heather Hamacek

The Summer Dance Beat Begins With Ghost Festival

Eiko Otake and Koma Otake have performed together as Eiko and Koma for over 40 years. But just three years ago they began to pursue individual projects and for the first time, as the kickoff to the Yard’s summer season, they will perform their individual projects in close proximity. Yard artistic director and executive producer David White began producing shows by Eiko and Koma in 1976 in New York city shortly after they arrived in the United States from Japan. He worked with them through the 1980s and they remained close friends.

“After four years of working together as the first MacArthur duo and after working as intimately and collaboratively for 40 years, they have begun to pursue individual directions,” Mr. White said. “I decided to bring them in together. Before it was always Eiko and Koma, now it’s Eiko [solo] and Koma [solo].” Four years ago Koma sustained an ankle injury. He took a break from dancing as he recovered and turned his attention instead to visual art and painting. He created an installation of the paintings in a trailer which became an integral piece of his first solo project Ghost Festival, inspired by the Japanese tradition of ghost festivals where the community would gather in the town center in the summer to dance and sing and drink for the lost spirits. “The painting is the ghosts,” Koma said. “The ghost is a lost spirit, it could be your mom or your daughter.” Ghost Festival begins inside The Yard theatre and after intermission moves outside to where Koma dances joyfully with his trailer full of paintings. “I dance around the trailer and I dance inside the trailer and on top of the trailer, and before that I dance inside of the theatre too,” Koma said.

The actual dance can vary depending on the weather, Koma said. “I dance with the wind, it might rain. I don’t mind, I can dance,” he said. Koma will perform Ghost Festival on June 2 and June 4. Eiko began her solo project, A Body In Places, two years ago with A Body in Fukushima, a collaboration with Japanese historian and photographer William Johnston. She then performed A Body in a Station, starting with a three-hour performance at Philadelphia’s 30th street Amtrak station. At the Yard she will perform A Body in Menemsha on June 6 and a smaller more intimate performance at a home in Edgartown on June 3. In A Body in Places, Eiko dances slowly in costume and with props in different locations. “In this project, especially I enjoy to be a little bit of a nuisance. When I perform strange places outdoors people don’t know what to do with me, and I like it,” she said. “Like what is she doing here? What’s the point?” “It’s almost like you blink, you see the landscape, you blink and there she is,” said Mr. White. Eiko does not mind if people leave after a few minutes of the performance or stay for the entire time. “Even the people who are puzzled and leave the piece after five minutes, they might be the person talking about it at the dinner table later,” she said. Along with the performances, an installation of the photographs from A Body in Fukushima will be on display at the A Gallery in Oak Bluffs. Following Eiko and Koma, the Yard has a lineup of diverse performers throughout the summer season. Familiar faces will return like The Bang Group, Dorrance Dance, Amy Brenneman doing a follow-up show to her popular Mouth Wide Open performance, and the Cuban dance troupe Malpaso, which made their North American debut at the Yard last summer. Headlong Dance Theatre, based in Philadelphia, will bring their show Island, a mixture of performances and participatory installations, and Cherdonna Shinatra will anchor the popular Pride, Not Prejudice 3 event, to name a few of the shows planned for this summer. Mr. White said one of the most important parts of curating artists is trusting in their work whether he has seen the piece they will be performing or not. “I really trust the artist. The role of the producer is to create an opportunity for the creator,” he said. “It’s important I know the artist. Knowing the artist let’s me know that something interesting is going to happen.” The Yard is also hosting a public dance party to celebrate the music of Prince and David Bowie on Friday, May 27, beginning at 7 p.m. For a full list of performances, classes and receptions and to buy tickets visit dancetheyard.org.