IMPRESSIONS: A Split Bill Performance Featuring Kizuna Dance and The Achievements at Triskelion Arts
January 21, 2018
Koibito (New York City Premiere)
Choreography: Cameron McKinney
Kizuna Dance Performers: Gwendolyn Baum, Rohan Bhargava, Brianna Dixon, Reka Echerer, Chelsea Escher, Ezra Goh, Cameron McKinney, and Cassidy Samelian
Music: Biosphere, Moritz Eggert, Haxan Cloak, Ryoji Ikeda, Yuzu, Vladislav Delay, Ryuichi Sakamoto, and Sam Cooke
Choreography and Performance: The Achievements, Renee Gerardo and Jenny Pommiss
Music: Dawn of Midi and Angel Haze / Additional Sounds: Michelle Goldstein, Power Yoga
Concert Lighting Design: Andy Dickerson
Triskelion Arts continues to support emerging choreographers with its Split Bill Series, a pairing of disparate artists on multiple concert nights. The two companies featured on January 21 could not have been more different in style, though they shared similar issues regarding developed ideas. The former had too many; the latter, nowhere near enough.
Kizuna Dance, led by dancer-choreographer Cameron McKinney, presents Japanese ideas through a hip-hop aesthetic. A latecomer to dance, he has crafted his own choreographic method which fuses elements of house dance and capoeira with the intensity and stillness of Butoh. Initially inspired by imported comic books and cartoons, McKinney’s love for Japan has grown to include fluency in the country’s language and customs.
In Koibito, McKinney obliquely references Japan's “salary-man" culture, wherein employees slog through 18-hour work days. Bedecked in office drone attire and perpetual scowls, McKinney's dancers revolve from one geometric formation to the next in his low-to-the-ground style: they are minions spinning in their tracks to the point of exhaustion. Mckinney offers up a curious study in polarity, presenting listlessness with dynamic action that never falters in crispness. Those in the know may recognize the Japanese phenomenon “inemuri," the culturally prized practice wherein diligent workers fall asleep on the job.
Musically Koibito is all over the map with its haphazardly arranged soundscape incorporating contributions from eight composers. Much of this ambient noise lacks rhythm or feels like what one hears as musical scoring for a bleak movie. But what works for a movie rarely translates to the stage. Here it functions as a gnawing intrusion that comments on the movement without providing a dramatic through line.
Ezra Goh emerges as Koibito's focal point in a gestural solo of mimed awkwardness. He pulls an outstretched hand back as if to apologize, and repeatedly adjusts already perfectly arranged articles of clothing. Desperately enclosing his fingers around Rohan Bhargava's hand, he shakes it, sending ripples reverberating through their torsos. This undulating motion explodes outward, propelling the pair across stage into corkscrew turns that vault into daredevil jumps.
Eventually Brianna Dixon, a smiling waif, snags the spotlight. She has something to show Goh (and he is clearly interested) but we never find out what, because her colleagues won’t stop intruding. Too bad — Dixon’s dancing is filled with attack, nuance, and personality; we wanted to see what she had to offer. Soon, Goh returns to adjusting his clothing, no worse for wear, and in the same place where he began.
McKinney’s personal mastery of his unique style coupled with his inventive movement sequences are rewarding to behold; however, his preponderance for variegating movement fails to further his storytelling. We know he has something potent to convey, but the excessive movement and lack of musical support obscure the view.
Making use of spoken yoga instructions, The Achievements begin Vital Signs with a clever duet of yogic phrases that trade back and forth between Renee Gerardo and Jenny Pommiss. Then they gather the 45 individual items that litter the performance space and make a line out of them across downstage. Jogging around in a circle they repeat phrases such as "I can" or "I am" to each other.
Is this a stab at performance art, a shot at comedy, or perhaps two buddies attempting to rid their homes of excessive paraphernalia and fooling around with it onstage? Whatever the case, Vital Signs is too casual and decidedly unfinished.