“Supreme in their field, they seem to have created a new order of movement . . . in everything they do, you sense the absolute and mysterious beauty of the body.” —San Francisco Chronicle
From the beginning of their 35-year partnership, Eiko & Koma have danced as one fluid organism. The Japanese natives and resident New Yorkers’ long history with the Walker Art Center, which started with a 1981 performance and has since included four residencies and commissioned works, continues with the presentation of Hunger. Eiko & Koma perform the world premiere of the Walker-commissioned Hunger on Thursday–Saturday, October 9–11, 8 pm, in the William and Nadine McGuire Theater.
Using butoh inspired, glacially slow movement and real-time “action painting,” this new work reflects on physical want and familial themes as it ebbs and flows from the lovely to the violent, the poignant to the passionate. This intimate quartet reunites Eiko & Koma with their “dance tribe,” two young Cambodian visual-artists-turned-performers they first worked with four years ago when developing Cambodian Stories in Phnom Penh.
Eiko (female) and Koma (male) were law and political science students in Japan when, in 1971, they each joined the Tatsumi Hijikata company in Tokyo. Their collaboration began as an experiment that resulted in an exclusive partnership. As independent artists in Tokyo in 1972 they simultaneously began to study with Kazuo Ohno, who along with Hijikata was the central figure in the Japanese avant-garde theatrical movement of the 1960s. Neither Eiko nor Koma studied traditional Japanese dance or theater forms, and have preferred to choreograph and perform only their own works.
Their interest in Neue Tanz, the German modern dance movement which flourished alongside the Bauhaus movement in art and architecture, and their desire to explore non-verbal theater took them to Hanover, Germany, in 1972, where they studied with Manja Chmiel, a disciple of Mary Wigman. In 1973, they moved to Amsterdam, and for the next two years toured extensively in Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Tunisia.
The Japan Society sponsored the first American performance of Eiko & Koma’s White Dance in May of 1976. Since then, they have presented their works—Fur Seal (1977), Before the Cock Crows (1978), Fluttering Black (1979), Trilogy (1979-81), Grain (1983), Beam (1983), Night Tide (1984), Elegy (1984), Thirst (1985), By The River (1986), Tree (1988), Rust (1989), Memory (1989), and Passage (1989)—at theaters, universities, museums, galleries, and festivals across North America, Europe, and Asia. In 1983 Eiko & Koma performed for the first time at the American Dance Festival, which later commissioned many of their works. New Moon Stories (1986) at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Next Wave Festival marked their 10th anniversary in the United States and the first of five commissions from BAM. In 1996, Autum Passage celebrated Eiko & Koma’s 20th anniversary.
During the past 10 years Eiko & Koma have created and presented site-adaptable performance installations at dozens of sites for some 35,000 audience members. River (1995) takes place in a body of moving water. Breath (1998), commissioned by the Whitney Museum of American Art, is a “living” gallery installation. At the Whitney, Eiko & Koma performed continuously for four weeks during museum hours. The Caravan Project (1999), performed in a specially modified trailer, becomes a “museum by delivery” installation. Offering, premiered in New York’s Battery Park near Ground Zero in 2002, is a ritual of communal mourning. Dancing in the Street produced Offering in parks, plazas, and gardens throughout Manhattan. The work then toured across America and internationally. Tree Song (2004) honors trees, their resilience, rebirth, and endurance. Whenever possible (almost always), Eiko & Koma perform these outdoor works free to the public.
Eiko & Koma’s noted stage collaborations include the proscenium version of Offering (2003, with the clarinetist David Krakauer); Be With (2001, with Anna Halprin and cellist Joan Jeanrenaud); When Nights Were Dark (2000, with composer Joseph Jennings and a Praise Choir); the proscenium version of River (1997, with the Kronos Quartet, who performed Somei Satoh’s commissioned score live); Wind (1993, with Chanticleer and its music director Joseph Jennings); and Land (1991, with Native American flutist/composer Robert Mirabal and American visual artist Sandra Lerner).
Designed to be performed in an intimate space, Eiko & Koma’s stage work Death Poem (2005) is a meditation on dying. Cambodian Stories: An Offering of Painting and Dance (2006), a collaboration with nine young Cambodian painters-turned-performers toured 11 cities in the United States in the spring of 2006. They recently premiered Cambodian Stories Revisited, a quartet with Charian and Peace, the two youngest of their Cambodian collaborators, in the graveyard of St. Mark’s Church in New York. Mourning, Eiko & Koma’s latest work and a collaboration with noted pianist Margaret Leng Tan, premiered at Japan Society in New York in October 2007. Their current project, Hunger, is commissioned by the Walker and the Joyce Theater as part of their 25th-anniversary season. Eiko & Koma are touring both Mourning and Hunger during this season.
Eiko & Koma’s dance/videos include Tentacle, Bone Dream, Wallow, Lament, Husk Undertow, and The Making of Cambodian Stories.
Eiko & Koma perform regularly in New York City, where they offer occasional Delicious Movement Workshops. They were named John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellows for 1984. They were awarded one of the first “Bessies” (the New York Dance and Performance Awards) in 1984 for Grain and Night Tide, and were honored again in 1990 for Passage.
Eiko & Koma were named MacArthur Fellows in June of 1996. This was the first time in the program’s 15-year history that the foundation awarded a fellowship to be shared by collaborators. They are the recipients of the 2004 Samuel H. Scripps/American Dance Festival Award for lifetime achievement in modern dance and the 2007 Dance Magazine award.
Tickets to Eiko & Koma’s Hunger are: Thursday, $18 ($15 Walker members); Friday–Saturday, $25 ($21) and are available at walkerart.org/tickets or by calling 612.375.7600.
Free First Saturday: Meet the Artists-in-Residence
Saturday, October 4, 10 am–3 pm, Free
Families let their creativity run wild while making art and performing alongside visiting artists-in-residence Tomás Saraceno and Eiko & Koma.
Performance: Eiko & Koma, 11 am and 1 pm
Join celebrated Japanese-American choreographer/dancers Eiko & Koma for two live encounters with breathtakingly slow movement inspired by the butoh dance form.