Yukio Kawano

I love the silence that surrounds me when I stand in the middle of a heavy snowfall. It feels strange and exciting, magical and otherworldly, like time is standing still. It’s amazing to me that you can see so much movement in the falling snow, but not hear a sound. In this moment, my senses are heightened and I notice things I’ve never noticed before. The snow is beautiful and I feel happy, calm, and my mind it quiet and focused-which is difficult to do sometimes.

The only other experience that I can equate to this, for me, is dancing and watching dance. In these moments I am able to focus my mind and my body, transport myself, and block out everything that isn’t necessary for that moment. Right now I want this. I am exhausted from the election, the constant chatter on Facebook, the news, the atrocities in the world, the suffering, the anger, the fighting, everything.

I am not trying to encourage sticking your head in the sand but rather to encourage art making, doing and seeing. It seems like the best possible way to process what is going on around us, and it might even give us a feeling of empowerment over our circumstances.

In keeping with the Thanksgiving tradition of avowing what we are thankful for, I am most thankful for dance and dance makers and artists of all kinds, they transport me and help me see and feel things I might not have been able to on my own.

I am specifically thankful for the four performances that I witnessed and participated in post-election and the ideas they left behind: my own, The Kitchen Sink, Linda Austin’s The last bell rings for you, Reggie Wilson’s Moses(es), and Suspended Moment: Activating the Nuclear Past + Present by Meshi Chavez, Yukiyo Kawano, Allison Cobb and Lisa DeGrace.

The Kitchen Sink was a year-long project that I worked on with fellow dancers Celine Bouly and Abigail Nace, which culminated last weekend at BodyVox. You can read about my process creating the dance in a story I wrote for ArtsWatch.

What’s my take away from my own show? I love circles. Circles are not a choreographic trope that choreographers use when they run out of ideas.They are beautiful, timeless, natural and full of meaning. Life is circular, my joints move in circles, I will always use them.

The last bell rings for you seemed to say that every “body” is sacred with the ringing of bells by performers (as well as audience members) as a variety of bodies moved as humans do throughout the performance space at Shaking the Tree Theatre, creating a sacred, church like atmosphere. These 28 bodies explored the space and each other, sometimes moving together, and sometimes not, and often were moved by unseen forces. That made me think about what is in our control and what is not.

Moses(es), which was created across the country in Brooklyn, New York, was similar in structure in so many ways to The last bell rings for you, which is amazing to me given the distance between the two companies. It made me wonder about the power of collective thinking, the evolution of post-modern dance, cultural expectations and that maybe we are more similar than dissimilar.

Suspended Moment: Activating the Nuclear Past + Present, which was performed in the Littman Gallery at Portland State University this past Tuesday, was a scary and timely reminder of what can happen to power when it’s left unchecked. Visual artist Yukiyo Kawano decorated the gallery space with two hanging replicas of the A-bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945 fabricated from her grandmother’s kimonos, stitched together with strands of her own hair. In addition she added hanging paper lanterns for the dead, a calligraphic tapestry on the wall with the famous work of Japanese poet Matsuo Basho’s Narrow Road to a Far Province, and a river of rice paper flowing down from the ceiling meandering through the space with the same writing on it.

Butoh dancer Chavez—dancing to Cobb’s poetry recited live by Kawano and Cobb, with music by Lisa DeGrace—animated the space, invoking the spirits of the dead and creating indelible images of death and suffering and remembrance as a reminder to us not to change the narrative.

This weekend offers us three wonderfully different respites from the world.

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This weekend features two dance performances that might offer some solace and solutions in these post-election times: The last bell rings for you by Portland choreographer Linda Austin and Moses(es) by Reggie Wilson/Fist and Heel Performance Group, presented by White Bird.

Also, happening next Tuesday night is the opening of Suspended Movement: Activating the Nuclear Past + Present by Yukio Kawano with an accompanying performance by butoh choreographer Meshi Chavez, composer Lisa DeGrace and poet Allison Cobb.

Kawano’s work is of two hanging, life-size replicas of the atomic bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945, made from her grandmother’s kimono, stitched together with strands of her own hair.

The last bell rings for you is a collaborative, large ensemble score (a structured framework for improvisation) created by Austin, that features movement artists Claire Barrera, Jin Camou, Nancy Ellis, Jen Hackworth, Allie Hankins, Keyon Gaskin, Danielle Ross, Noelle Stiles and Takahiro Yamamoto, as well as a diverse group of 18 community participants who learned the material in a series of rehearsals just two weeks ago.

The performers will be discovering pleasure in such group behaviors as singing, walking, bell-ringing, and dancing.

The last bell rings for you is the second part in a three-part series that began with (Un)Made, a solo relay series, that began in March 2015 with a solo created and performed by Linda Austin, who then passed it down, like a game of telephone in relay fashion, to eight other performers: Jin Camou, Keyon Gaskin, Matthew Shyka, Linda K. Johnson, Nancy Ellis, Robert Tyree, Tahni Holt and Jen Hackworth. These performers then in turn passed it down to a group called the Dream Team—Claire Barrera, Danielle Ross, Noelle Stiles, and Takahiro Yamamoto— before it was finally performed again by Linda Austin herself.

We the audience tracked the details from Austin’s original performance through to each one of the performers, observing what was lost, what remained and what was changed. The entire process was chronicled on the (Un)Made website and includes performance and rehearsal photos as well as writing by Linda Austin and Allie Hankins, who acted as the dramaturg for the project.

I interviewed Austin in 2015 in celebration of Performance Works NW anniversary. To learn more about Austin and Performance Works NW, you can read that interview here.

Reggie Wilson/Fist and Heel Performance Group, is a Brooklyn-based performance group founded in 1989 that draws on the traditions of the African diaspora, combining that movement with post-modern dance to make what Wilson himself calls “post-African/Neo-HooDoo Modern dances.”

The company will perform Moses(es), a work that examines the many representations of Moses in religious texts asking: how do we lead and why do we follow? Inspired by Zora Neale Hurston’s Moses, Man of the Mountain, Wilson traveled to Israel, Egypt, Turkey, and Mali to consider the migration of African people throughout the world. The results of his research was Moses(es), an evening-length work for nine performers set to live vocalizations from the African diaspora and recorded music by Louis Armstrong, The Klezmatics, Amahlokohlo, Ngqoko Women’s Ensemble, Mazaher, Aly Us, The Growling Tiger, Bi Kidude, Southern Sons and The Blind Boys of Alabama.

Reggie Wilson along with White Bird co-founders Walter Jaffe and Paul King, spoke with Dmae Roberts at KBOO radio about the origin of the company name, the company and the work. You can listen to that full interview here.

Reggie Wilson will be leading a public conversation from 1-2:30 pm on November 19th at PCC Cascade Campus, Moriarty Arts & Humanities Building,
705 NE Killingsworth St.

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