The Dance Place concluded its month-long Japan-America Dance Project last week, a festival of work by Japanese choreographers who have taken up residence in the United States, with works by the Bessie Award-winning duo Eiko and Koma. Unable to perform their work for medical reasons, Eiko and Koma were represented instead by videos of three dances as well as by a live performance of their "Broken Pieces" by CoDanceCo members Nancy Duncan, Danielle Shapiro and Eileen Thomas.
Like other of their works, "Broken Pieces" exists on several levels. It seems an eerie evocation of microscopic life, depicting the inexorability of life processes. It also seems a metaphor for human destiny, suggesting that even reasoning creatures are trapped by these same natural laws. In an extraordinarily committed performance of this, the only piece ever made by Eiko and Koma for another group, Duncan, Shapiro and Thomas reaffirmed the impression left when they had performed here last May: They are dancers who know how to slip inside the skins of even the most idiosyncratic dance styles.
In the use of lighting that emphasizes contours, and in the close-ups that remove objects from their functional contexts, as well as in the formality of their black-and-white presentation, Eiko and Koma's videos do for the body what Edward Weston's photographs did for vegetables -- that is, transform familiar objects into abstracted, sculptural forms. In "Tentacle" (1982) and "Bone Dream" (1985), which were created with video artists Celia Ipiotis and Jeff Bush, and in "Lament" (1985), made in collaboration with James Byrne, the camera focuses on body parts so that they become unrecognizable except as mountains and valleys of flesh-covered bone. This seems a logical extension of Eiko and Koma's choreographic distortion of the body into something utterly otherworldly.