Eiko Otake: Transforming Space

WORDS AND IMAGES BY MIMI GOSS '18

 

Through the glass, I can see the outline of a women crumpled on the ground.  She moves without moving.  Her limbs, hidden behind her oversized kimono, remain still while her hands, barely visible, grip a torn red blanket.  The music is the wind passing through the trees, and the breath of each audience member.  The audience shifts on the Davison Art Center’s porch to catch a glimpse of Eiko Otake.  Her simple movements hush the entirety of the audience. The darkness of the room, visible through the window, echoes the darkness of her demeanor.

Eiko Otake along with Takashi Koma Otake, most commonly known as Eiko & Koma, are co-choreographers and performers.  Their performances typically display concrete ideas through abstract means.  Both Eiko and Koma center their choreography in a way that plays with silence and lighting in order to create an uncomfortable atmosphere.  On October 4th at 5 pm, Eiko begins her performance by giving the audience a preview through a foggy window, before inviting us inside the Davidson Art Center to become a part of the performance. 

As the audience shuffles inside, Eiko is visible in the farthest room, in a heap on the ground.  She struggles to stand, her exaggerated hand and feet movements distracting the audience from her kimono, which becomes another performer itself.  The fluidity and density of the kimono engulfs Eiko as she hunches over.

Eiko creates her own spotlight through her physicality that draws the eye to her; she has one hand by her chest and the other stretched out as her body convulses.   As she finally stands, she abruptly moves directly toward one audience member, who is so transfixed by her glistening eyes that he remains in his place.  Eiko stops just before colliding with this man, and reaches past him to a marble table which reveals a bowl of water.  Her hands shake in anticipation as the bowls comes closer and closer to her lips.  However, just as the water seems about to glide into her mouth, the bowl tips and a fountain of tears splash onto the ground.  Eiko then pivots around, turning towards another audience member, whose hand grips the wall behind her.  As Eiko glides closer and closer, she holds out the bowl to the woman, whose eyes shut, and lips mechanically part.  Again, just as the liquid almost hits the top of the audience members lips, Eiko pulls the bowl away, and yet again water pools on the ground.  Putting the bowl down, Eiko moves into the next room, very often crumpling over in an unknown agony.  This continues as she moves from room to room, and then into the Davidson Art Gallery.  As she enters the gallery, the audience swiftly follows Eiko to the back of the room.  She falls into the crevice of two walls, and topples over.  

In the performance, Eiko transforms the entire space into a stage.  The audience is hushed by her simple yet powerful movements that redefine many of their prior conceptions of a dance performance.  One audience member, Danielle Cohen commented, “The way she moved through the space was innovative and refreshing.  I have never seen anything like it.”