You’d expect the longtime husband-and-wife dance team Eiko and Koma to know something about a memorable exit. In fact, they’ll make one in their final performance of a year-long residency at the University of Maryland. At the end of “Caravan Project” Friday evening, they will simply get in their car and drive off into the sunset, taking the whole set and stage with them.
The car, the driving off: That’s all part of the performance. Most of “Caravan Project” takes place inside a trailer hitched to the back of their vehicle, which Eiko and Koma will park on the front lawn of Maryland’s Clarice Smith Center in front of the audience assembled there. “We get out of the car,” explained Eiko in a phone interview Wednesday, “and we do this installation-ish thing in the trailer.”
The trailer has four doors that will open wide so the audience can see a narrow cavern inside, and can watch how Eiko and Koma inhabit it. The pair is known for staging mysterious tableaux in which they barely move — works that resemble slowly shifting still lifes — but “Caravan Project” promises a veritable stream of energy in comparison.
“It’s outdoor work, light, not as heavy,” said Eiko. “There’s the night sky, a sense of liberation. It’s funny — not funny-funny, like you laugh, but it’s cute.” She and Koma will emerge onto the lawn for part of the performance, before getting back in the car and driving off. In the most immediate sense, “Caravan” is a way for the artists to say good-bye.
“It kind of became symbolic,” said Eiko. “With the trailer being mobile, and our last action is driving away...looking toward summer.”
So much of the dance world is geared towards physical excitement, speed and athleticism. But Eiko and Koma have adhered to their more contemplative, sculptural style since the 1970s. Eiko has a particularly lovely term for it: She calls their work “a duet forever.”
“If I’m doing a solo, people always know Koma is coming at some point,” she said. “Or if Koma is onstage, people know Eiko is going to come back. We’ve always had the notion of a two-person company. There are no other people coming in. Together we are a duet, but even separately we are a duet — it could be a solo with an invisible partner. We kind of like that, the elusiveness. It’s simple.”
And the slow, gradual unfolding of their work is perfectly in line with their taste for gentle pleasures. “I happen to like the fact that we’re not busy” on the stage, she said. “I’m busy in day-to-day life anyway. So why try to be busy onstage? Many people don’t like our work, ‘oh, it’s too slow.’ But I happen to be the kind of person who thinks, why don’t we take the time to do subtle things? Why go to a fast-food restaurant or play music too loud? Why not have a quiet dinner?”