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Sunday, September 7, 2008

Geisha: Vocabulary Lesson

Posted by Patrick Alan Coleman on Sun, Sep 7, 2008 at 3:47 PM

Dancer Jye-Hwei Lin stands on stage, clad only in a pair of tight blue jeans. She looks at the audience as her ribcage expands and contracts as if instead of ribs, she had the wings of a large bird trapped inside her chest. Suddenly, her body bursts into motion.

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Geisha, choreographed by Lee Sher and Saar Harari (LeeSaar), has a vocabulary of movement that's a bit difficult to enter. It is sexual, at times forceful and hectic. There are slow passages where the dance undulates like otherworldly outre burlesque, and others where it seems to be barely contained by the dancers bodies.

What begins as a silent solo becomes a duet as Lin is joined by Saar Harari. There is a strange relationship expressed by the male and female dancer, which unfolds over the hour long performance. The two slowly begin to acknowledge one another building a deeply physical conversation that precludes actual touch.

The problem is, like visiting a foreign country where you don't know the language, it's difficult to understand what these two beautiful dancers are saying to each other. The difficulty is compounded as the dance is occasionally interrupted by Lee Sher as a character that I'll call the Kimono Diva.

The Kimono Diva occasionally appears on stage to perform karoake-esque torch songs in Hebrew. The feel of the songs, the slow yearning quality, seems to mimic the emotion of the dancers, but again, because I don't know Hebrew, there's no way of telling what's being communicated here. It's another layer of confounding vocabulary.

Still the Kimono Diva succeeds in breaking the tension, at one point launching into an over the top sing-along (with a pre-recorded audience) that rests somewhere between Night Ranger's Sister Christian and anything from Celine Dion's ultra cheesy repertoire. Singing her heart out, she wanders into the audience, reaching out to touch the hands of audience members.

However, the tension of Giesha is where the dance is most successful. As it reaches the climax, the dancers get closer and closer, and the anticipation of their touch (which is never fulfilled) is absolutely palpable.

Geisha is straight ahead modern dance. For many audience members it may be simply confusing, maybe even painful. But as I've let the images sit with me for a day, it's a performance that has certainly lingered.

Geisha plays again tonight at 8:30 in PSU's Lincoln Hall


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