Around the World with Yoshiko Chuma

Just go. Really. I mean, you can read the rest of this post, I hope you will, but ultimately you just need to get over to Danspace Project and see Yoshiko Chuma’s Not About Romanian Cinema:POONARC because it is absolutely magical. It is running through June 13.


I saw it on Friday night and was spellbound. I’m looking through my notes trying to reconstruct the experience and it is not so easy. Its kind of like when you wake up in the middle of the night from the most beautiful, insightful, profound dream, when you think you’re on the threshold of revelation, and you jot down a quick note that you’re sure will remind you of the revelation in the morning, only to realize that words are inadequate to describe your physical and mental state of transport. The show is like an interdisciplinary multimedia global symphony that is so precisely composed and expertly performed that your attention never wavers as the event unfurls over 90 minutes.

The show opens, as we enter, with the performers around a long table, hearkening back to John Cage’s “Variations VII”, the table is equipment-strewn and lit from below. Behind are screens with projections of different scenes from Romanian cinema. The screens are also, later, to become the 7x7x7 cubes that Chuma has been exploring for years. (See picture above). “Variations VII” was a collaborative piece with Bell Laboratories and the result is a kind of early electronic soundscape that is both mysterious and industrial, and Chuma’s performers serve as surreal Foley artists for the films.

After an extended film sequence the screens are deconstructed and reconstructed into cubes – there is a “big reveal” of a chalkboard the width of the entire room on which a performer has been writing the entire time. Chuma has a solo…

You know what… I can’t accurately describe everything that happens. It was too much and would take too long and ultimately this needs to be experienced. Trust me. Chuma casts her shows going by her instincts, she never auditions, and the work itself is as much about the process of these people encountering each other as it is about any given idea or subject. At the same time it is about cultures – Japanese, American, Romanian- coming into contact with each other and coexisting, the commentary of juxtaposition.

For the sake of this piece it is useful to know that the Japanese cinema being shown is from around 1966 – twenty years after WWII. And the Romanian work is from now, about 20 years after 1989 when the Romanian revolution happened. Its about being far enough away to forget but close enough to remember, its about change, its about society and memory, guilt, compassion, loss….

And if nothing else, go to hear the extraordinary soundscapes. Sizzle Ohtaka’s vocals will take you to another world. Truly unclassifiable and transcendent. Not About Romanian Cinema:POONARC  is a rare gift of a show. Don’t miss it.

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