Miki Orihara: RESONANCE

Miki Orihara: RESONANCE

By Philip Gardner 
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Thursday May 8th, 2014 – Miki Orihara’s opening night at La MaMa Moves!

Miki, the beloved interpreter of the works of Martha Graham, performed five solo works in this concert event: classic dances by Graham, Limon, and Martha Clarke as well as a solo created for her by Adam Barruch and a piece which she choreographed herself. The production, evocatively lit and featuring live music, drew a large and very appreciative audience to the La MaMa space: a place redolent with the power and beauty of dance.

What transpired during this event was something that transcended the music, steps, and imagery. We experienced – at close range – a dancer moving in a state of grace, communicating with every fibre of her body and spirit. It was, in fact one of those rare evenings of dance where daily concerns and world-weariness were swept away by the purity of dedication of a great dancer, lifting us to a higher sphere. Miki seemed to reach the very heart of dance.

Throughout the entire evening, a palpable resonance of silence – almost a religious silence – could be felt in the space: the audience, keenly attentive and absorbing every nuance of Miki’s performance, seemed scarcely to breathe lest the atmosphere be tainted. To create this kind of reverential silence, to hold an audience enthralled, is the gift of the greatest of artists.

Screen Shot 2014-06-25 at 11.12.18 pmMiki structured her program in such a way that the mood was sustained throughout; after each solo she eschewed the expected bows, instead vanishing quickly to change costumes. During these pauses, pianist Senri Oe performed a set of interludes which – seemingly improvised – maintained the atmosphere, holding the audience’s focus rather than letting people lapse into idle chatter.Thus, once summoned into Miki’s realm of music and movement, we remained there, as if in a dream.

Announcing her Graham affinity at the start, Miki donned the iconic green-white-black- striped stretchy shift/gown for Fernando Palacios tune as Miki, amazingly supple and full of girlish energy, covered the space in athletic, witty combinations. From her silken hair to her expressive toes, every centimeter of her physique seemed to be dancing. Celebrating Isadora Duncan in the guise of a wind-swept nymph, Miki appeared in a gossamer, ruby-red tunic to dance Jose Limon’s Maenad (from Dances for Isadora). Marko Stuparevic was at the keyboard for Chopin as Miki, evoking the incipient madness of the ‘raving ones’ who served Dionysus, gave us this urgently lyrical, expansive dance. A more complete shift of mood could not be imagined than when Miki re-appeared, wrapped like a spectral cocoon, to perform the Martha Clarke solo Norturne. In this work, an aged and faltering woman crosses the space in painful slowness, her body arthritically bent and distored, her face wrapped in a caul. Topless, she covers her breasts with one arm as she sinks into a catatonic collapse. Tearing at her shredded white tutu, she seems like a dying swan; yet she is able to rise again in the end and wander slowly into the shadows, forestalling her ultimate demise. Miki’s mastery of the sustained, achingly slow movements of this pathetic but once- beautful creature defined her artistry yet again.

In the world premiere of her own choreographic work Prologue, Miki offered a multi- media dancework that literally put a lump in my throat. Three chairs appear in pools of light onstage and Miki, in a soft white dress, wanders pensively about. On a screen, a ghostly projection of Miki slowly materializes, wearing jeans and a dark shirt. The real and illusionary Mikis seem to be contemplating a memory as the unique voice of Janis Ian intones ‘I Hear You Sing Again’, a haunting recollection of a beloved voice that has been forever stilled. Miki sits silently, her hands – projected on the screen – slowly clenching or opening. This utterly simple motif spoke profoundly of loss and regret. The work, which might have become maudlin-but never did-thanks to Miki’s surety and depth of expression -kept the audience thoroughly mesmerized.

Choreographer Adam Barruch, in his solo Memory Current created for Miki, gave his dancer beautiful strophes of movement/language and Miki ‘spoke’ this poetry with peerless gestural clarity. And again her entire body seemed to invest Adam’s vocabulary with both the resonace of a vast experience in dance and the promise still more beauty to come.

Miki’s programme stemmed from her belief that we may look into the future of dance by investigating the past. While summoning great works by Graham, Limon and Clarke into vibrant life, Miki also cast the light of her artistry on her own current work and that of Mr. Barruch whilst illuminating beyond the present to creations still to come.

As we cast about us in a darkening world for uplifting experiences in music, dance and poetry, artists like Miki Orihara shine as beacons in the night. We are so fortunate to have her.