What is it that gives Kei Takei's work its profound effect? Partly, it's the stripped-down quality, the reduction to barest essentials. Party, too, it's the measured gravity of pace, as if each instant of time were freighted with meaning Perhaps more than anything else, it's the sense that everything one sees is an emanation of the same penetrating poetic insight - the elements may be as various as the leaves, broughs, trunk and roots of a tree, but a single organic purpose determines every shape and connection.
Part III of Takei's extended, still-evolving dance opus entitled "Light" (it's up to Part XIII currently) was presented at the Dance Project this weekend, and it proved no less compelling than other segments seen earlier in Washington.
The performance was the outcome of a week-long workshop conducted by Takei and Maldwyn Pate, the associate director of her New York-based troupe, Moving Earth. "Light," Part III, created in 1970, was orginally for five dancers; at the Dance Project, it was restaged for the 13 Washington-area workshop participants.
It began in darkness, with the (recorded) sound of rainfall, a heavy, steady downpour evoking nature, sadness, mystery, unbroken currents of feeling. A narrow cone of light fell on the floor, revealing Takei in a motionless squat, deep in mediation, a bundle on her back, staring fixedly into the pool of light at her barefeet. She didn't move from her pose throughout the work's 40 minutes. Yet it was clear she was the protagonist of all that followed. It was as if we, the audience watched over her shoulder, staring into the pool and sharing her remembrances of things past, or visions of things to come.
Gradually the light rose, disclosing the other dancers, starkly clad, like Takei, in simple white togs. Some were blindfolded. Slowly, they began to move, not in steps," but as if in reaction to unseen forces and urgings, sometimes stumbling, sometimes darting in sudden spurts, caving in to the floor, thrashing violently, rising and groping, moving now singly, now in pairs, now in random groupings. It seemed as if all the figures were projections of Takei's interior self, moving embodiments of fear, of struggle, of desire.
It was a gripping performance. Still, it would be fascinating to see Takei's own group, in this and other parts of "Light," and it's high time, too. Though Takei has now been here four times, her company has yet to have a Washington engagement.