takahiro yamamoto

In Traveling

back to performance



Text by Daniel Ross

Video Excerpt


Reflection on Taka Yamamoto's In Traveling

Danielle Ross, May 17th, 2013

Let's begin with John Cage's '2 Pages, 122 Words on Music and Dance' because I am in a referential mood:

    To obtain the value
    of a sound, a movement,
    measure from zero. (Pay       A bird flies.
    attention to what it is,
    just as it is.)

                     Slavery is abolished.

                                                        the woods
                                       A sound has no legs to stand on.

                                                                             The world is teeming: anything can

                                                                             sound                        movement

    Points in                                                                            Activities which are different
    time, in                    love                                                    happen in a time which is a space:

    space                       mirth                                     are each central, original.
                                     the heroic
    The emotions        tranqulility                     are in the audience.
                                     anger                                                                  The telephone rings.
                                     sorrow                                               Each person in the best seat.

                          Is there a glass of water?                                            War begins at any moment.

                                                                                                  Each now is the time, the space.

                                                                                                    Are eyes open?

When people ask me what my interest is in dance, performance, movement, I talk about riding the Trimet bus system in Portland, Oregon. I talk about the shift of gaze, the rearranging in space, the turning to gesture from a place of memory and the physical nooks and crannies we have trained ourselves to inhabit.

Little performances for one another.

Night 1: April 10th, 8:30pm, Studio 2 in Portland, OR

I was late and feeling semi-rushed. I was wearing a green military jacket and was cold. My legs were crossed and I sat almost center in the back row of the audience in a metal tan folding chair. Linda Austin, Linda K. Johnson, Chloe Dietz and two other classmates of Taka’s also sat in identical chairs. These details matter. These details contributed to how willingly or unwillingly, consciously or unconsciously I prepared myself.

A body moves in the space on a strong upstage right diagonal and the sound of glass breaking happens.

There are six bodies on stage. It seems this is the beginning.

What I Know
What I know is that they are working with personalized scores.
What I know is that these scores were at least generated in part from their own writing.
What I know is that not all of these performers know the others’ scores.
What I know is that I have learned this over drinks with two of the performers.
What I know is that when one of them repeated something, Taka assigned movement associated with “repeating” to her score. What I know is that I named this the “repeating dance” in my head when I heard her describe this.  

What I Saw
Suba looks at Allie.
Allie looks at Suba.
Jen walks.
Many bodies walk.
Walking, settling, presence and play with presence.
Strong gazes, obvious play with gaze.
They walk in dancerly ways, as Linda K. Johnson would later emphasize during feedback.
Michael stands out. He walks, he talks, his right arm sways more than his left.
I’m thinking about Michael telling me about his kids being tired of going to art-centric events.
I’m thinking about Michael telling me about working at Target.
I’m thinking about seeing Michael in a red polo shirt.
Michael: “So long as I wish – as long as I’ve worked here…you can fall over now.”
Michael whispers something to Lucy.
Lucy looks genuinely uncomfortable.
Suba is staring directly at me.
I’m smiling in a non-power play way.
Lucy begins to speak. Lucy begins to move.
Jen follows Michael around.
Jen looks like a little sister.  

This whole image is a family.
Mike moves spastically.
I’ve never seen Mike move this way.
I’m really enjoying this section.
I’m worried about Mike hurting himself and I’m trying to balance that with my enjoyment.
Mike and Lucy do the Fresh Prince of Bel Air dance.
I want to join.
Something goes wrong with the sound system.
It seems to break something inside of the performative nature of what’s unfolding in front of me. And yet, it’s so pedestrian that I’m curious why this felt like a break. I would speculate it is related to the performers’ expectation of this happening.

I’ll stop here and offer the following from Andre Lepecki’s Introduction/Dance as a Practice of Contemporaneity:

“Dance’s deep relationship to scoring , or choreographing, exposes all those commanding and imperative forces embedded in the practice of choreography. Indeed, as a system of command, choreographic scoring reveals the formation of obedient, disciplined and (pre) formatted bodies – technically and subjectively fit to produce and …to reproduce certain staged images conveyed by an authorial will…Scoring also links to conceptual art, as linguistic instructions have been used by a number of conceptual artists…to articulate sets of possible as well as impossible actions, revealing how any system of command is always filled with the cracks that will bring it down. Finally, because dance does what it sets itself up to do, because it always establishes a contract, or promise, between choreographic planning and its actualization in movement, it inevitably reveals an essential performativity at the core of its aesthetic project.”  

Night 2:
April 29th, 8pm, Studio 2 in Portland, OR

What feels different this time, part 1:
Keyon has returned from tour and is in the space
All performers are differentiated by clothing
The clothing reads as pedestrian, but as carefully chosen to seem pedestrian
The word pedestrian has always been hard for me, but I enjoy the “costumes” because they remind me of Meg Stuart’s Do Animals Cry
Lucy is in a different place when Michael whispers in her ear
His breath moves her hair more than last night, and it adds to my own discomfort
What triggers my discomfort is the memory of Lucy’s perceived discomfort
Suba stares directly at someone else this time
Keyon jumps on the wall
I anticipate watching Mike’s “spastic dance” because it has solidified that I enjoy it
Allie dances with her eyes closed  

“This link between dance and performativity demonstrates a non-metaphoric implementation, or actualization, of that which preconditions dance: endless citationality of an always singular yet always dispersed (or semi-absent) source, which nevertheless insists on making a dance return: again and again, despite (or rather because of) its ephemerality.” (Lepecki) 

Night 3:
April 30th, 9pm, Studio 2 in Portland, OR

What feels different this time, part 2:
I am on a date and paying attention to when he laughs, his breath patterns and his right knee touching my left knee
I anticipate more, I anticipate the glass breaking, the walking, the Mike “spastic dance,” the Fresh Prince dance, Allie dancing with her eyes closed, the whispering, Jen following Michael
Michael’s words now make me think he is talking about a date
“I mean I’m having fun. I think…we’re…having fun.”
Lucy is Allie’s safety net while her eyes are closed

Final Thoughts

You score your own experience.

Narrative is a choice. Application of narrative is a choice.

Contextualizing your choice of narrative is informative for the dance itself and your experience of the dance.

The space, the stillness, the not-looking supports the lack of space, the virtuostic, the gaze

The event is the visual action itself

From In Traveling’s Program:
“As in life, what matters is not the final destination, but all the interesting things that occur along the way. For wherever you are, there is somewhere further you can go.” – Tim Ingold