Seeing double in Yasuko Yokoshi’s ZERO ONE at Danspace Project

Manami (floor) and Sawami (sitting) Fukuoka

Manami (floor) and Sawami (sitting) Fukuoka Photo by Ian Douglas

I have three sisters. When together, we’re still mistaken for quadruplets and when apart, we’re usually mistaken for one another. When visiting the town where we were raised and where one sister still lives, I have often wished I had a “I’m-not-the-sister-you-think-I-am” disclaimer banner. And so, though not an identical twin like the dancers appearing in Yasuko Yokoshi‘s latest, I found myself repeatedly confounded. I was equally guilty of the consistent inability to distinguish one sister from the other while I watched the work unfold at Danspace Project last week. In hindsight, I realized I could have seen the variations in stance and performance quality, if I’d been looking for it. But, I hadn’t been trying to keep track until I suddenly realized I couldn’t.

Manami and Sawami Fukuoka have followed distinctly different paths in dance and, until Yokoshi created Zero One with them, they had not danced together. Sawami has been based in Europe, dancing for many years with Emio Greco. Manami remained in Japan and studied Butoh. The differences in physical practice show in explicit and subtle ways. One has more range of motion in a kick, the other maintains a different center of gravity. At one point, we hear audio and read a projected transcript of an argument between the sisters about what is “natural” and “artificial” in the movement phrases they created and taught one another during their process. Now, I can guess who to attribute which actions to or which statements would correspond with which dance training, but in the viewing and unfolding it seemed more important to simply observe their slight variations against the backdrop of biological replication.

Yokoshi’s usual juxtaposition of traditional Japanese and contemporary forms plays out across the Fukuoka’s bodies. They kabuki walk with fans and also pull apart an American jazz routine. They dance in proximity, at a distance and, at times, alone. At one moment, they spoon on the ground and they are zygote. At the end, they pass one another walking in opposite directions after a circle. The visual and perceptual experience mirrors the Zen riddle inside the work’s title. Their physical similarities and disparate styles wind around them, popping out and receding, at times adding their halves up to a comprehensive whole and at other timess disappearing into nothing. They are simultaneously neither and both, nothing and everything, a singular circling symbol of emptiness and a multiplicity of parts summing totality.

Inserted into the piece are projected videos from a film about Hangman Takuzo, a performance artist whose work is a daily hanging of himself, usually from a noose in his garden. In one sequence, we see Namiko Kawamura, slowly walking, meditative and naked into a kitchen while Takuzo hangs to the side and his girlfriend Mika Kurosawa, a well known member of the Japanese contemporary dance scene, appears to cook dinner. We hear audio describing his interest in this, largely private, performance practice. There is a gentleness to his pursuit that becomes apparent when we see him hanging later in the garden, another kind of absence and presence. In that act, that seeming intimacy with death, a kind of zero, he finds complete existence – a zero space and zero time, or simply here and now.

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