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IMPRESSIONS: Kota Yamazaki/Fluid hug-hug’s "Darkness Odyssey Part 2: I or Hallucination" at Baryshnikov Arts Center

IMPRESSIONS: Kota Yamazaki/Fluid hug-hug’s "Darkness Odyssey Part 2: I or Hallucination" at Baryshnikov Arts Center

Published on December 21, 2017
Photo: Stephanie Berger

December 13, 2017

Choreography: Kota Yamazaki

Performance: Julian Barnett, Raja Feather Kelly, Joanna Kotze, Mina Nishimura, and Kota Yamazaki

Music: Kenta Nagai / Lighting Design: Thomas Dunn

Set and Costume Design: Kota Yamazaki

Pictured above: Julian Barnett (foreground), Raja Feather Kelly, and Mina Nishimura (in back)

Forget the beginning. I’m starting at the end, the very end, after I’ve exited Baryshnikov Arts Center. A gentleman — white-bearded, bespectacled — falls into stride with me. “Can I ask what you thought?” he asks.

It’s a loaded question, for him and for me. What are you supposed to think of a piece that’s as glistening and slippery as Kota Yamazaki’s Darkness Odyssey Part 2: I or Hallucination (the first installment premiered in Japan; a sneak peek of the next will arrive in May)? Pinning it down is like catching a shadow or caressing a sunbeam.

In his Darkness Odyssey trilogy, Yamazaki imagines the body as a black hole, sucking up everything with which it comes into contact. While the five dancers (including Yamazaki) of the aptly titled company, Fluid hug-hug, may internally collapse, rendering themselves massive and invisible like black holes, the piece registers as weightless, effortless.

a dancer in a blue and green graphic blouse and great flouncy skirt outstretches her arm. In the background a man in a white tee and blue pants stands with his shoulders hunched.
 Raja Feather Kelly and Mina Nishimura; Photo: Stephanie Berger

Employing independent scores, four of the performers zigzag across a floor that shimmers as if it is a sea of stars. They flick their legs and shuffle their feet, toes pointing in, out, in. They elevate their forearms to waist height, where they stay, like stunted wings. Occasionally, one mumbles cryptic phrases. Joanna Kotze says, “There were four power lines. I saw three power lines. So I guess there were three power lines.”

Opposites cavort with each other: light and shadow, action and rest, intention and being. The rock that anchors this ever-shifting tide is Yamazaki, who lies in the fetal position off to the side. For three-quarters of the work, he will remain prone, slowly wiggling his toes or cocking an ankle, until, apropos of nothing, he exits.

Two women in silk tops and skirts are in the background. Two others dancers stand in back. One wears a black filmy blouse and black skirt while the other faces the back curtain in blue pants and white tee.
From L to R: Julian Barnett, Mina Nishimura, Raja Feather Kelly, and Joanna Kotze; Photo: Stephanie Berger

As if blind to everything and everyone around them, the quartet floats through this enchanted landscape, focused on their journeys. Sometimes, they chance upon another for a duet as when Julian Barnett and Mina Nishimura glide through the airy pockets formed by their lifted limbs. At one point, the cast finds themselves as the corners of a square, their solitary paths resolved into a community. I or Hallucination culminates with everyone in a line at the far end of the performing space — further away from where they started.

Now that I’ve gotten to the end, let’s return to the beginning and the gentleman’s question: “Can I ask what you thought?”

Well, sir, I thought it was hazy like a daydream where images sieve through me, some sticking — the arch of Kotze’s foot, the swing of Raja Feather Kelly’s arms — while others slipped through undetected. I thought it was engaging until Yamazaki left, his still, stalwart presence suddenly critical to the onstage fervency. Most of all, I thought its beauty was in its elusiveness. Although the gentleman and I conspired to describe it, to define it, I or Hallucination slithered away until nothing of it was left but our words rattling in the night.

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