State of Heads, Leap to Tall
-posted By P.A. Coleman
What are we waiting for? The dancer standing on stage (his back towards us, his clean white suit), inhabits a posture we have all shared at some time, looking absently at nothing until something better happens. There is a slight shuffle in the sold-out audience. Time passes. What are we waiting for?
The ponderous start of Uchizono’s State of Heads is a set up for a dynamic meditation on the mechanics of anticipation. The dancers appear to be filled with the objects of potential: hinges, springs, marbles, all placed precariously inside of them. When this internal scrap yard is triggered, sprung or pushed, the dancers are suddenly animated.
The choreography in State of Heads is sharp and angular; a pile of sheet metal given agency and momentum. And, like anything given momentum, once in motion, it tends to stay in motion. The waiting of Uchizono’s piece is not simply static. The dancers wait for forces of gravity and momentum to move them, and once moving, their bodies are given to it, completely. Then, they wait for it to stop, to slow, for the spring to recoil. The dancers are not completely lost, however. They have the recourse to change, but this change is only superficial. It seems no matter how hard we try, we are bound to the rattling world of movement within all of us.
In Uchizono’s second piece, Leap to Tall, we are blessed with the fascinating grace and agility of Mikhail Baryshnikov. He is wonderfully suited for the far more lyrical choreography of this piece. Having just turned sixty, he still moves as if gravity could not touch him.
Something I find incredibly satisfying in Uchizono’s choreography is the strength that she allows her dancers to express: they flex and pound fists, become bold and angular. However, there is still softness and compassion as the three dancers of Leap to Tall support and carry one another. There is a sense that to become tall, we must be given the height and space and support to do so. Slowly, over the course of the dance, Baryshnikov appears to cause a darkness to lift, like a curtain, creating more space and light to breath and move. Uchizono has also allowed some comic moments to shine through, giving the piece another dimension of lightness and leaping. In the end, we are freed from the cloaking heaviness of darkness and we are allowed to leap free into the blinding light with a sigh.
Both of Uchizono’s pieces are full of an extraordinary depth. The dancers use every bit of space as they move through the echoing, dynamic choreography. This is true modern dance, free from gimmicks and heavy technical diversions. The weight of the performance rests solely on the strong shoulders of the company, and they deliver.