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In Performance: Takahiro Yamamoto – Direct Path To Detour: Single Focus

Direct Path To Detour: Single Focus
August 9th, 2017
Portland Institute of Contemporary Art, TBA:17
By Eben Hoffer

Direct Path To Detour: Single Focus is a solo iteration of Takahiro Yamamoto’s larger dance work by the same (un-subtitled) name. This piece, the solo, took place in PICA’s NW Portland space. The audience is seated in chairs and on cushions in a wide circle around the space; a ring of LED votives describes a performance space at the center. The lighting and sound artists are seated in the audience ring, with an energy of witnessing as well as work.

On Saturday evening, the piece began with a sort of orchestral tuning of the technical elements: a wash of digitally processed archival audio, static, and glitch fragments filled the room, cutting from tone to tone like a channel-surfed TV. The lighting went on a parallel solo journey, fading from cool to warm colors and back again, mixing angles to create different shadows and perspectives of light. All this combined to create an abrasive yet oddly domestic quality, mixing feelings of interior and exterior spaces, of the natural and the artificial.

Yamamoto entered in a full-length garment the color of a stormy sky: deep blue with lacing bruises of purple here and there. The garment covered most of his body, immediately drawing attention to the strength and articulation of his hands and feet. Yamamoto began by expertly playing with a yo-yo, playing with strength and purpose. This controlled activity eventually gave way to a series of dances that opposed swift precision and minimalist movement with inversion, shaking, and the crisis of a body out of control. This dichotomy continued through the evening: following a centerpiece in which he interviewed an audience member and told a personal story while drowned out by the scoring, Yamamoto worked backwards through the first half’s choreographic material, but increasingly in a state of tension and crisis. On more than one occasion, Yamamoto nearly collided with audience members. Ultimately this resolved towards a contemplative end, in which the smallest movements of the yo-yo and the incursion of moments of complete darkness shrank the piece to a final, silent point on a vast horizon.

Yamamoto and company have an inventive collective language, which appeared throughout the piece. There were several brilliant uses of space, which should not be disclosed here, and a dynamic live interplay between the sound, light, and choreography. With the technical artists positioned so clearly in the space, their present interplay with each other emerged as a delightful meta-layer of the work.

Yamamoto describes the work as an attempt, the performer trying to simultaneously hold the many sources of selfhood, and the competing necessity of self-analysis and release-into-experience. One further question, left unanswered by the piece, is what it means for Yamamoto’s collaborators and audience to bear witness to this process. Whatever answers may eventually emerge, they are certain to be as rich and precise as this work.


by Matthew Gregory Hollis

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