Friday, May 25, 2012

Autobio Maeshiba

Premiering this weekend at Theatre Project, Kawatokawa (river/skin) represents Naoka Maeshiba's most personal piece of peformance art yet.  The solo ballet, heavily using mime, explores the various roles and transitions the Japanese choreographer has undergone in her emotional and artistic pilgrimage.

Moving from one prop or boldly colored piece of clothing to another, Maeshiba skillfully expresses the passions proper to each stage of transition.  Using complementary recorded voices, her depiction of the transition to America is the most accessible part of the work.  Humor and pathos alternate as the life of the often-baffled protagonist unfolds.  The choreographer's two unobtrusive assistants (Eva Hiott and Zach Bobst) provide simple gestural support and keep the props (especially during a humorous storm scene) moving.

Especially striking is the emotive range of Maeshiba's choreography and peformance.  One moves effortlessly from the intimate self-enclosure of "Dark Room" to the bombastic yells and flapping arms of "We, the Japanese."  Maeshbia often reacts passively to the various events of her complex transition.  Through her contorted gestures and baffled grimaces, she is moved, pushed, and shoved from one developmental state to another.

As compared to her earlier, more abstract Paraffin (presented at Theatre Project two years ago), Kawatokawa is a more personalist work.  Even in the obscure earlier sections of the work, the basic emtoions of fear, curiosity, and rejection float off the stage with carefully calibrated movements.  The audience is clearly touched as the piece rises toward its final paroxysm, even if the precise caus of that chiseled touch remains veiled.

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