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    Christiana Axelsen in <i>Pandora</i> in Splice: Japan
    Photo by Paula Lobo
    Christiana Axelsen in Pandora

    Emotional Turmoil and Loss, in Japanese

    Mana Kawamura and Makiko Tamura share an evening at DNA


    Mana Kawamura and Makiko Tamura showed two powerful pieces on a split evening at DNA, titled Splice: Japan. Both share excellent performances and construction; the craftsmanship is remarkable. Both share a strong sense of emotional disruption as well.

    Choreography by: Mana Kawamura, Makiko Tamura.
    Dancers: Kawamura the 3rd:Christiana Axelsen, Mana Kawamura, Lize-Lotte Pitlo, Lindy Schmedt, Suzanne Thomas
    small apple co.: Jessica Herring, Michael Ingle, Asami Morita, Ryoji Sasamoto, Noriko Sugita, Makiko Tamura
    Lighting design by: Amanda K. Ringger.
    Dance New Amsterdam
    February 24-26, 2010

    Kawamura's Pandora is a hard read, but it is a captivating hard read. Five characters stand still, hands raised over heads, while a combination of electronic blorts and piano notes fall randomly, until one dancer falls out and begins an explosive solo as the others remain impassive. When the four do move, it is in a unison of sharp contractions, hands pumping downward in a motion suggesting self-stabbing. It is a striking and vaguely disturbing opening.

    When Kawamura takes a solo, she sizzles, giving every movement sharp heat and cold speed. She is clearly the driving force behind her well-drilled corps of dancers. Christiana Axelsen (opening solo) and Lize-Lotte Pitlo are also powerhouse movers, two remaining pillars of a standout supporting trio that until recently included Keelin Ryan as well. Two new dancers join the mix here, with newcomer Suzanne Thomas showing some of the sharpness and fire of Ryan.

    Mana Kawamura in Splice: Japan  
    Photo by Paula Lobo  
    Mana Kawamura
    Precision and speed are integral parts of Kawamura's aesthetic, but she uses silence and stillness expertly to offset and enhance the explosiveness of big solos, often using still dancers as an intriguing tableau. Sound design plays a big part, too. She weaves Bach, Chopin, Susumi Hirasawa, Christian Marclay, Pimmon, Edith Piaf and silence into a rich and nuanced soundscape — really impressive for any composer but especially for someone who is apparently self-taught.

    And what an ambitious subject to take on in one dance; the story of Pandora has so many possible interpretations. In essence, Pandora (literally, "all-gifted") is the first woman, created and given a gift by each of the Greek gods, and she in turn is given to man, as a punishment. Apparently, even if she hadn't released all the evils in the world by opening a jar or "box," this woman would have been a bane to men. The fact that "hope" remained inside the jar when she closed the lid can also be interpreted as a bad thing, as hope being imprisoned and unavailable to mankind. Oof. Or, Pandora can be Anesidora — she who sends up gifts from the earth.

    Asami Morita and Michael Ingle in Splice: Japan
    Photo by Paula Lobo
    Asami Morita and Michael Ingle

    Whatever the interpretation, Pandora here is full of volcanic emotion, and an open-mouthed expression — a scream, a look of astonishment or, most often, like the relentlessly hungry mouths of baby birds — is a recurring one. As one dancer falls in exhaustion into the arms of the other four to blackout end the piece, it could represent the despair of a universal woman/human or the nurturing power of all women.

    Makiko Tamura's Order made -6- is a six-person version of her original duet with Ryoji Sasamoto, adapted and expanded for three couples here. This expanded version loses some impact but gains some depth, with standout performances by Asami Morita and Michael Ingle backing up equally strong performances by Tamura and Sasamoto.

    Black and white is the rule in this piece. White light bathes 6 figures in black, standing still. A series of blackouts and repositionings, ever popular, have one couple separate from the group and rejoin. The opening white, pure laughter of Morita is quickly joined by black sorrow from others, a juxtaposition that will recur throughout.

      Makiko Tamura and Ryoji Sasamoto in Splice: Japan
      Photo by Paula Lobo
      Makiko Tamura and Ryoji Sasamoto
    This bipolarity comes with the breakdown of an older woman, either as present sorrow and past joy or as part of the confused mental state of someone losing their faculties. Morita captures this duality wonderfully, sadly brushing her hair and applying lipstick in one scene and laughing and cavorting like a very athletic little girl in another. And Ingle, as her devoted but tortured husband, goes from one emotional extreme to the other while apparently doing some mundane bookkeeping at his desk.

    All six performers seem able to conjure ecstatic laughter from nowhere. It is oddly contagious and disturbing at the same time. The piece ends nearly as it began, with all clustered together, laughing or crying.

    MARCH 2, 2011

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