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Eiko and Koma - Cambodian Stories

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Eiko and Koma are on a national tour with their newest piece, “Cambodian Stories”, in which they collaborate with young Cambodian artists. I saw them at Gammage auditorium in Tempe, Arizona...

Apparently E and K taught in a Cambodian school for visual arts, and were impressed by the ability of some of the students to "inhabit their bodies" and to express through movement, even though they had never before had dance classes. They returned to the school a year later and developed this piece that merges dance and art, creating both simultaneously.

Eight young men, bare-torsoed, wearing bright yellow-gold sarongs, walk out solemnly onto the stage in front of a large painted drop, and announce themselves one by one as aspiring artists, or teachers, or bankers even, in loud, clear voices. The painted drop crumples to the floor and is carried away by the men, who then return to the bare stage where a blank canvas lies - they begin to paint the canvas, rapidly, with broad brushes and bowls of paint, and their brown bodies and yellow sarongs, black hair and movements as they clamber over the canvas create a kind of dance. There are a series of large painted drops hung from each wing, large portraits of Cambodian women, bare-torsoed on stage left and wrapped in sarongs on stage right, and the drops move slightly and are sometimes even set astir by the artists. A young girl, wearing cream-colored silk, moves very slowly, raising her bare feet only inches off the floor, arms outstretched to the sides, hands flexed, crossing slowly, slowly. Finally the men are finished with the canvas - I thought it might be scribbles of color - they hoist it to face the audience, and it turns out to be a painting of a woman wearing the same style clothes, arms outstretched in the same posture.

Eiko and Koma make their appearance, but are unobtrusive, like powerful old trees, slow and deliberate, first in regular clothes, then in white makeup and robes...they seem to facilitate more than anything, sometimes interacting, dreamlike, with one or several of the young artists, leading them, bending over and with them.

The dancer/artists reach, yearn, sink back against the hanging paintings, move heavily and pass in and out of the stagespace and wings. At one point the side drops are lowered, and a black backdrop is revealed - it, too, is quickly painted, and becomes the image of a woman lying down on a mountain - or is she the mountain itself? a large sun and stars filling the sky. The image of the woman was foreshadowed by the sole Cambodian girl, who stretched out centerstage on top of a mound of what appeared to be earth, or sawdust, or could it have symbolized cremated remains?

In painting the huge backdrop the men become canvas as well, ending up with blue and yellow palms and big splotches of paint on torso, head, and feet. Finally all kneel and bow with E and K, closing the ceremony.

This production is apparently appearing at the Asia Society in May.

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Did anyone see "Offering," a piece Eiko and Koma did for the one-year anniversary of 9/11? It had similar motifs, and seeing it performed in Battery Park, just blocks from Ground Zero, was incredibly moving. It involved a big vessel of dirt and debris, with candles burning in one corner of it, that Koma rotated slowly as a dancer in a saffron robe moved atop it, sometimes joined by Eiko. It was haunting -- the accompaniment was the wail of a solo clarinetist, and as dusk fell, the candles glowed brighter.

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Eiko and Koma are on a national tour with their newest piece, “Cambodian Stories”, in which they collaborate with young Cambodian artists. I saw them at Gammage auditorium in Tempe, Arizona...

I saw "Cambodian Stories" a couple months ago in DC... a very amateurish effort, eg:

(1st dancer faces audience) "My name is xxxxx, and I want to be an artist."

(2d dancer faces audience) "My name is yyyyy, and I want to be an artist."

... (repeat for every dancer on the program)

They were selling a bunch of kiddie art at intermission. It was basically just a charity thing for this Cambodian school. I was embarassed for everybody concerned.

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