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    Lydia Mokdessi and Benjamin Wagner, backs in MokdessiWagner and Kawamura
    Photo by Steven Schreiber
    Lydia Mokdessi and Benjamin Wagner, backs

    Two Couplets of Odd

    Kawamura the 3rd and Lydia Mokdessi and Benjamin Wagner share an evening at Triskelion


    Triskelion often seems to pair choreographers as Merce Cunningham paired music and movement — randomly and usually successfully. Kawamura the 3rd and Lydia Mokdessi/Benjamin Wagner both gave odd-couple performances that left more questions than they answered.

    Choreography by: Lydia Mokdess and Benjamin Wagner, Mana Kawamura.
    Dancers: Lydia Mokdessi and Benjamin Wagner
    Masanora Asahara and Mana Kawamura
    Music by: Charlie Kaplan (MokdessiWagner).
    Set design by: Takeshi Miyakawa (box for Kawamura).
    Lighting design by: Andy Dickerson.
    Triskelion Arts
    January 7-8, 2016

    Mokdessi and Wagner give KINDREAD/ BLOODMOON plenty of words and silence, and they give each other relatively equal movement. This dreadmoon takes a while to wax. Prop fail and muddy guitar lead to an overfast wordspew between the two that all give the opening a foot-shooting feel. The one advantage an unreadable projector (of live writing) gives is that it focuses attention on the performer who is moving.

    The dancers drift with the guitar for a while, before a clean break — to The Brothers Johnson and pink light — gives fun and energy to everything. Mokdessi still moves beautifully, and it is good to note that Wagner moves better than most, since that wasn't apparent in some of their earlier work. The two do find their words the second time around — nothing makes sense, but there is a good rhythm between the two, and the nonsequiturs flow smoothly. Perhaps they use the Cage/Cunningham random method to generate phrases and choose their order, in kindre(a)d spirit. The whole thing is a bit of a happy mess, with just the right amount of built-in irritants to make the fun bits more fun. My fave: the loping bouncy run the two do in laps around the space — in indeterminate position in the piece.

    Lydia Mokdessi and Benjamin Wagner, front in MokdessiWagner and Kawamura
    Photo by Steven Schreiber
    Lydia Mokdessi and Benjamin Wagner, front

    Mana Kawamura comes from Japan via Pina Bausch (and Cunningham) training to create melt, a psychosomatic-dramatic duet, with Masanori Asahara as her cohort or opponent. Origami-folded paper cranes, in a clear plastic box, are a source of mystery and the only props. The drama begins right away, as Kawamura arches and flops with impressive, almost scary, force. Asahara can only watch — here, and in many other moments. This is the first of several confusing dynamics between the two. The tension is clear, though.

    From the web, "Traditionally, it was believed that if one folded 1000 origami cranes, one's wish would come true. It has also become a symbol of hope and healing during challenging times. As a result, it has become popular to fold 1000 cranes (in Japanese, called "senbazuru")." Where the cranes fit into melt is not completely clear, but this quote gives context.

      Mana Kawamura in MokdessiWagner and Kawamura
      Mana Kawamura
    Action seems to end prematurely or is simply dropped — like the first crane Asahara picks up. This happens many times, and is always jolting. One example that sticks is Kawamura cradling the head of a sinking Asahara, then catching it in her instantly improvised lap(!) before he hits the ground, and Then — unceremoniously and abruptly — standing up and letting his head fall the last six inches to the floor. Another is the predatory/sexual scene where Kawamura carries Asahara across the room, to the floor, looks ready to mount him or kill him, and slumps to a stop — as if her invisible power switch has been turned off by a remote hand.

    Both dancers go through this active/passive bipolarity, often taking turns. When Asahara is active, he first dumps all the cranes out, pouring the last of them on a prone Kawamura. Later, he is aggressive, almost manic, as he throws the cranes everywhere, even performing acrobatic throw-and-roll moves as if in a war game.

    When Kawamura finally rises (roused by a falling bird?), she comes to a pile of cranes and grabs one in her mouth, dancing a bit of life back into herself. He approaches, grabs the other wing in his mouth, rips the bird in half and flies away! The end. What a relationship.

    JANUARY 13, 2016

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