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Fragile SFChronicle | Eiko + Koma
Fragile SFChronicle
photo by Anna Lee Campbell

Moving from one dark room to another

  • San Francsico Chronicle, March 20, 2012
  • Leah Garchik

On Saturday, we threaded our way through a sequined-hatted green-bead-wearing post-parade crowd. But once inside the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, the truth is there was little junction between St. Patrick's Day revelers and the gang watching artist-dancers Eiko & Koma and the Kronos Quartet perform "Fragile."

The piece was performed in four-hour stretches from Thursday to Saturday; viewers watched for as long as they wanted. So I can't swear that the somber, serious and dark - "postapocalyptic" was the word most whispered as the audience poured out to the lobby during an intermission - performance I saw was a complete representation of the whole.

It's even possible that at some point, the lights came on, the Kronos broke into "Turkey and the Straw" and Eiko & Koma, who'd been lying nude, with powdered bodies, on a bunch of scraps of cloth or paper and dark feathers, and moving in such increments that their muscles rather than their limbs were the visual focus, jumped up and started clogging to the music. But I don't think so.

The room, full of people, was so blackened that it took a while for one's eyes to become useful for finding a place to watch. We found cushions on the floor and sat down gingerly, so as avoid unwittingly plopping on top of another audience member. Squeals would have been uncool. In the performance space, no one was giggling, no one was whispering. People were rapt. A few minutes into my sit, I marveled at how Eiko & Koma managed to stay immobile for stretches of time and not seem to be in pain when they moved.

A program quoted the dancers saying they would be "a constant: naked and fragile no climax, no drama, just an accumulation of naked moments, none more precious than the other. In that, listening might bring us tears and not-listening might bring us dreams. Sophisticated string quartet music might be extraneous to naked bodies but surely not caring friends who visit our fragile selves."

I'm glad they said that, because setting aside the wisecracks, this caring friend is speechless.