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Thursday, September 15, 2011

Offsite Dance Project, Edges

Posted by Jenna Lechner on Thu, Sep 15, 2011 at 4:10 PM

Edges is unlike anything else you’ll see at TBA this year. Based in Yokohama, Japan, Offsite Dance Project is among the few international artists (also including collective Claire Fontaine) at the festival, and they bring a totally different, but welcome, “non-Western" sensibility.

The primary goal of the group is to extend dance into urban spaces, sharing dance with the uninitiated theater goer via site-specific, mostly spontaneous work. They do a great job of creating a unified energy, binding the performers with their viewers. The piece is split into three parts and three locations, requiring the audience to trek from one spot to the next.

Pardoning the amateur videowork, it starts like this:

Happy!

And ends kinda like this:

Troubling!

The sun goes down about a half an hour into the show, and the performances gets a lot darker alongside it. The piece begins at Olympic Mills Commerce Center, a newish building with a bit of Eastern architectural flair. Everyone is crammed into the high-ceilinged hall, craning their necks (...so THAT'S why my neck was sore this morning); up above is the group Ho Ho-Do (Mika Arashiki and Mari Fukutome), on the rooftop, teasing you, peaking at you through the skylight, gesturing piece signs and making hand puppets. They come down from the roof, and frolick about on the second floor with their boombox. Their performance is complete whimsy, replete with paper airplanes: they mime and jester, and fake-punch audience members.

The audience is herded underneath the Morrison Bridge for the next act, Yukio Suzuki, who’s heavily influenced by Butoh and its intense underpinnings. A favorite moment was when a train unexpectedly came barreling through. Suzuki's response:

Lastly was Yoko Higashino (of BABY-Q), dressed in vampy scarlet and velvet and dancing on the loading docks. Digital projections were cast behind her, following the shape and lines of the industrial architecture. Her work is really heavy stuff; with the intense light on her, with her wincing and crouching, I couldn’t help but be reminded of these infamous shadows, etched into Japan’s walls during WWII. Like I said, troubling stuff.

To round it out, the only gripe I had during the performance was all of the photo taking. Has anyone else been bothered by this at a show, and at this one in particular? Judging by the videos I've posted, I was obviously guilty of this myself (but hey, the press has privileges!). When the work is so much about stillness, and becoming aware of your surroundings, the click of a camera can totally knock you out of the piece. Anyone have any thoughts on this, on the taking or banning of photography in performances like this? (Yea yea, we know what Walter Benjamin bores would say.)

If you missed the dance last night, have no fear. The troupe will appear again, every night until Saturday (listing here). Just be sure to make a reservation.

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