Friday, September 12, 2003

Eiko and Koma Offering 

Breathing controls time. Slow your breathing, you slow down time.
If you don't believe me stop reading this for a minute and take ten deep slow breaths. See what happens. Ten. Slow all the way in and out. Don't rush.
Breathing is the best way for me to start talking about last nights TBA performance: Offering by Eiko and Koma. I didn't catch on to the breathing thing until about halfway through the performance.
I started out in Normal Time.
Jamison Square was full, a buzz of people, all of humanity around me. Next to me a young dark-haired woman held a frizzy haired baby in her arms. The baby cried and the Mother talked loud to it. I prayed silently the woman and baby would keep quiet during the performance. The last gold light of sunset lit soft puffy clouds orange pink. A ring of stage lights around the Jamison Square fountain area lit the water, a timed cycle of water rising in a brick flood zone against tiered beige rock then draining. Over and over like huge breaths, water filled in, rose up to my feet and the circle of lights, then back again down the drain leaving slick wet brick.
In a semi-circle around the lights and flood zone, a large crowd, larger than I expected to see, sat and stood, waiting. In the middle of the brick, a black platform with taper candles lighting one edge. When water filled the flood zone, the top of the platform disappeared, left tapers burning just above the water. People moved and talked and laughed around me. The frizzy haired baby cried. The Mother talked loud.
Normal Time was left behind from the first image of Koma standing on the platform in back of the lit tapers, water filling in around his feet until it looked like he floated, to the last image of the two performers, flopping and crawling in the water like prehistoric fish. Eiko and Koma each took the stage slow and deliberate. They moved in cycles of breath and sounds of water. The occasional aria, crow calls, and musical accompaniment. The frizzy haired baby cried, the only noise besides the rush and gurgle of the waterfall. Alien distortion of bodies, pale white ghosts bending on the water. Prolonged enacted moments of human pain and passion. Heart breaking sorrow.
Then it happened. Actually two things happened, pretty much happened at the same time.
The first thing was the breathing thing. Me breathing slow and deep. At the same time as the breathing and the water filling in up to my feet then back down the drain again was something else too. Something to do with the quality of the moment, with how the woman next to me with the noisy frizzy haired baby stopped annoying me even though both she and the baby were louder than ever. The moment had changed, slowed down. Become art. All the noises seemed appropriate, the baby, the mother, the busses and traffic, all of it, everything in this moment was art.
How I know art that speaks to me is this: It takes me out of myself and my head, outside of my judgments over aesthetics and style. Pure experience. Slowed Time.
The dancers moved in geological time, each water cycle of fill and fade an epoch. The dancers movements were so slowed my brain only processed time when the image had changed enough for me to recognize it as changed, like only seeing every tenth frame of a movie reel. Koma and Eiko both laying flat on the platform, motionless except for their hands that reach up to find one another. Arrows swirl like magnets in the water. White flower petals drift by. The hands touch. Life becomes a gift transferred.
The scenes suggested enough of the barest bones my mind wanted to hang narrative on them. Love. Death. Emergence. Longing. Betrayal. Over and over the sorrow. But this offering was no symbol, no archetype to grasp onto. My brain couldn't do anything but watch. This was more than performance. This was an event, a ritual, a prayer. Metamorphosis.
I wanted to throw up.
No really, I did.
I was breathing so deep, and every time Eiko and Koma bit into the flower affixed to the other's head, I saw white flower petals hanging out their open mouths and my gag reflex kicked in which made me want to throw up because I had to take some weird meds a few years back and ever since then just looking at something half in and half out of someones's mouth makes me want to gag.
So right when I looked away to suppress my gag reflex was when Normal Time kicked in again.
I got distracted by the gagging, and probably by the hard ground underneath my butt too, and while we are at it, let us not forget the noisy baby and mother. I was back to being in an audience watching performers. Outside of the art. Back to my brain trying to put abstraction into some kind of context. Disappointed with myself, I wanted back in. When I looked hard at the woman with the frizzy haired baby, she lowered her voice.
I walked away from the ritual quiet and sad from the emotions Eiko and Koma raised. Frustrated too by my inability to dive back into the Slowed Time moment, to re-participate in the ritual before it ended.
But I was satisfied, too.
It was a pretty night. The just past full bright yellow harvest moon hung bright in the dark blue sky wrapped in clouds. A warm breeze blew.
And even if I was frustrated with myself, it was only because I wanted that moment back. The moment where art and life converged.
I just have to remember to keep breathing.
And really, if anybody asked me my own humble opinion is there anything I could say to bring relevance to this experience, it would be this:
Pay attention.
And please, leave the crying baby at home.

------Sage Ricci

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