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Eiko and Koma paint striking picture of human anguish


Emerson Majestic Theatre, May 3-5.


EIKO AND KOMA, the Japanese dance pair, returned to Boston last weekend to a full and enthusiastic audience at the Emerson Majestic Theatre. Made possible by the National Performance Network Creation Fund, the program was presented by Dance Umbrella, a leader in unusual and experimental dance in Boston.

The performance, 70 minutes with no intermission, featured two pieces -- "Night Tide" and "Passage." Eiko (female) and Koma (male) performed, as they do in much of their work, entirely nude. This technique is perhaps most compelling for its lack of eroticism, for the two bodies seem often more like abstract shapes than bodies. The nakedness is also an extremely effective tool for making the audience feel the vulnerability of the human spirit.

At the beginning of the first piece we see the backs of the dancers. They kneel towards the audience with their buttocks raised, presenting themselves seemingly in the form of two rocks. Their motions are slow, almost imperceptible, and they seem to change position without one seeing them move. They perform in a shallow pool of water, reminiscent of a puddle, which fills almost the entire stage. The only sound is the gurgle of water. The two forms move painstakingly, the object of their movement being to eventually touch and embrace. Their progress is tortuous and filled with frustrated attempts as well as recoils from one another. The piece is a striking picture of the anguish of the human quest for closeness and the inevitability of always being somewhat alone.

At this point in the performance water begins falling lightly from above, creating the dismal effect of light drizzling rain. Eiko and Koma continue to portray their reaching out to one another through the remainder of "Night Tide" and in "Passage" as well.

Both dancers are skilled in control of their bodies. Eiko, in particular, holds herself in many unusual, contorted positions, emphasizing herself again as a shape, not a person. In one of the rare scenes where they use props, a wet red cloth used to cover Koma's body is effective because it is so striking. As the pair said in an open question-answer session after the performance, the red was used to illustrate the inside of humans -- the blood, the womb.

Eiko and Koma's original techniques and the basic human experiences they so eloquently express make their performance a riveting experience. One cannot look away from the stage for an instant.