Kota Yamazaki Fluid hug-hug at Lincoln Hall (Thursday, Sept. 15)
[posted by Tim DuRoche]
Note: the following was written as part of Village Voice critic Elizabeth Zimmer’s Kamikaze Writing Workshop. In this three-day workshop, participants were assigned a dance performance and the task of writing an overnight-review of 300 words, which was read, revamped, revised, sliced, diced, etc.
The best thing about Kota Yamazaki Fluid hug-hug is the name—it rings with naïve optimism and a directness (like “have a sunny nice”) that makes you truly want to believe in the “exploration and exchange” on which the Japanese-based contemporary dance group was founded on. Rise:Rose, a world premiere, is the newest work by Yamazaki to meld modern dance, surface elements of butoh and club/hip-hop dance.

The ethereal premise of the piece, according to the program notes, was the creation of “unique images of a heaven. . .an exploration of a new oriental world and the sensitive human relationships that exist within”—the result was the new-age, white zinfandel-version of butoh, cloying, lacking depth or urgency. From the opening moments with Yamazaki and Mina Nishimura walking purposely back and forth, I was excited by the watching-the-weather-change tension of thrum and jarring stasis of the electronic score (by an uncredited composer), but all the rumble and hush, like the dance, was a mere threat. Exhilarating solo forays by Yamazaki, sped-up, St. Vitus versions of butoh’s usual paint-drying pace, Aikido movements on bended knee or Nishimura’s sense of gravity and contortion were rendered null and void by an inane trio segment in lovely whites that reminded me of the “here-we-come” opening credits of the Monkees.
Yamazaki, a well-traveled choreographer-dancer (he studied with, among others, Akira Kasai, the ga-ga hit of last year’s TBA festival), is an extremely fluid mover, with a sinuous, improvisational energy who’s absorbed a strong vocabulary of modern movement, but leans toward florid choreographic choices that ooze emotion. He was at his strongest, in those rare moments where he shrugged of any butoh presence and turned to unison partnering with the other dancers (the engaging Mina Nishimura and the vaguely unsettling Michou Szabo—whose understanding of modern dance seems to have been gleaned from Jerry Lewis). Unfortunately those moments were few and Yamazaki’s default was set to lugubrious gesture, what can best described as a “jam-band” approach to dance-making. I was neither under- or over-, I was just whelmed.
In his workshops last year, Kasai talked of the “unity of opposites”—the duality of beauty and horror, walking with a “stop feeling,” the poetry of the unsayable. While I wanted to like Yamazaki’s ” unexpected, abstracted forms of the human persona,” Yamazaki plumbed only skin-deep in his quest for identity, offering shallow visual metaphors, missing the opportunity to show us either heaven or its opposite.