Japanese dancers Eiko and Koma are known for moving slowly on stage. Very slowly.
Over the past 40 years, the husband-and-wife couple have developed a signature style of movement that can be harsh or tender. They have performed on freezing shorelines, in museums as if they were a piece of artwork (think weeks on display with little motion) and on more conventional stages to the Beatles' "I Am the Walrus."
They design their own costumes and stage settings, and choose their music. Their dances have simple, elemental names, like "Wind," "Husk," "Fur Seal" and most recently, "Naked," in which they perform nude. In each, Eiko and Koma move with supreme diligence and care, even when their movements suddenly speed up, becoming raw and jagged, disturbing and jarring.
Having spent most of the past few years traveling for The Retrospective Project, a tour of performances from throughout their career together — which includes numerous honors, like a 1996 MacArthur Foundation Genius Award — they now live in Manhattan. But they will come to Colorado College for one of their final planned performances, then stay for an artist-in-residency program, as well as for a public performance and workshop.
Speaking by phone from an engagement in Chicago, Eiko hedges away from specifics about their dances. When talking about their choreography, she says "there are certain ambiguities attached to it." And that the themes of the dances are often quite "ancient."
One thing's for sure, though: They dance only with each other. "I have never worked without Koma, like with any other dance company or with any other choreographer," Eiko says. "I don't know another way. This is how we know the work."
Their CC performance will include "White Dance: Moth," which ties into the I.D.E.A. Space's butterfly- and moth-themed Parvana exhibition, though it was initially planned separately.
And the connection goes even deeper than the dance having been inspired by a poem reflecting on a moth's fragile existence, says I.D.E.A. Space curator Jessica Hunter-Larsen. She cites Parvana's aim to delve into the artistic and scientific perspectives of the natural world.
"It's very much about their process of sort of deep and close engagement with the world around them, and then sort of taking that into the body and sort of expressing that back out," she says.
"What they're known for is making themselves extremely vulnerable," she adds. " ... And sort of inviting us to share the experience through their vulnerability."