Program Type: 
Eiko & Koma


March 22, 2012 - March 24, 2012
YBCA Forum


Eiko & Koma
Regeneration: Raven (2010), Night Tide (1984), and White Dance (1976)
Thu–Sat, Mar 22–24, 2012  •  8 pm  •  YBCA Forum
$25 Regular/ $20 YBCA members, students, seniors, teachers

YBCA celebrates Eiko & Koma's long history with Bay Area audiences, its venues, its community and its artists with a two week residency that includes two performance programs — Fragile, a performance installation in collaboration with Kronos Quartet and Regeneration, an evening of three iconic performance works.

In the late 70s Eiko & Koma made San Francisco their second home for a few months each year. They performed their early works such as White Dance and Fur Seal in multiple venues around the Bay Area, and toured the West Coast from their base in San Francisco. In the Bay Area alone, Eiko & Koma presented 11 programs consisting of 14 works in 12 venues. Thus it is no coincidence that many of Eiko & Koma's collaborators are from the Bay Area, including Joseph Krysiak (deisgn), Irene Oppenheim (writer), Paul Oppenheim (sound), Patty Ann Farrell (lighting), Kazu Yanagi (photographer), and artists Bob Carroll (Nurse's Song), George Coates (Double Vision), Chanticleer (Wind), Joseph Jennings (When Nights Were Dark), Kronos Quartet (River), Anna Halprin (Be With), and Joan Jeanrenaud (Be With).

About the Retrospective Project
Prompted by Sam Miller's idea that the museum/gallery concept of a retrospective could be applied effectively to certain performing artists, Eiko & Koma created a multi-faceted, multi-year retrospective of their work. By applying the tools and concepts traditionally used in creating a visual art retrospective, Eiko & Koma have both a broader and deeper framework with which to engage audiences in their work. Producer and dramaturg Sam Miller, as well as visual, media and performing art curators, have worked in close collaboration with Eiko & Koma to examine almost 40 years of collaborative history. The project includes performative and non-performative aspects, each of which reinforces the other in illustrating the artistry and trajectory of Eiko & Koma's career. Through complementary activities, the audience learns about Eiko & Koma’s background, history, concerns and aesthetics. For Eiko & Koma, creating the retrospective was a process of going deeper into their work, and of examining the motifs they have shared with their audience over time. This does not mean Eiko & Koma are bound only to their past, however. By creating new works, they cannot help but create some contradictions to their own history. This process has been informative as they continue to examine their past work, discover its collective continuity, develop new work and conceive of future projects.

For the Retrospective Project, Eiko & Koma produced video documentaries, revived several pieces from their past repertoire, and created two new performance works — Raven and Water — and two living installations, Naked and Fragile, the latter of which will be created during their residency at YBCA. They also produced an exhibition, Time is not Even, Space is not Empty, at the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art and an installation, Residue, at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. A catalog of Eiko & Koma's work, Time is not Even, Space is not Empty, was published by the Walker Art Center in the summer of 2011. This comprehensive 320-page monograph includes essays, interviews and photographs. It is available for purchase at museum stores and at Eiko & Koma performances. More information about the book can be found at

The retrospective program Regeneration is touring widely before it reaches San Francisco. Eiko & Koma's new website serves as an online complement to their live performance work and the published catalog, functioning as a living archive, a place to aggregate information and knowledge for all field professionals as well as for general viewers.

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  • Delicious Movement Workshop
    Mar 18, 2012 12:30pm – 3:00pm

    Margaret Jenkins Dance Lab  •  301 8th Street #200, SF, CA 94103
    $10 at the door (cash/check only, no advance payment)

    The workshop is grounded in Eiko and Koma's movement vocabulary as well as their compositional and performance techniques, which employ images, body articulation, floor work and transformation. However, the aim of the workshop is not to teach these. Rather, the participants, through their personal digestion of the material and of the improvisation and nonchalant partnership which supports it, are encouraged to acquire personal taste and flexible discipline to suit their own moving body. They are guided through a series of exercises designed to increase skills and awareness in the areas of focus, coordination and stance. Eiko and Koma hope each participant will develop lifelong pleasure in dancing any time, anywhere available to them, whether professionally or in their living room.

    SOLD OUT! Please join Eiko & Koma in their other public programs!

  • Leaders at the Lab: A Conversation with Eiko Otake
    Mar 18, 2012 4:00pm

    Margaret Jenkins Dance Lab  •  301 8th Street #200, SF, CA 94103

    Choreographers, dancers, dance-makers and enthusiasts are invited to attend this series of intimate conversations with choreographers from around the world. Discover and discuss the innovative models and career choices that some of today’s leading artists have developed to endure and flourish in the ever-changing climate of dance-making in our national and global cultures. Hosted by Margaret Jenkins at her Lab, these public events are free and will be followed by a reception. More details »

  • Regeneration: Raven (2010), Night Tide (1984) and White Dance (1976)
    Mar 22, 2012 8:00pm
    Mar 23, 2012 8:00pm
    Mar 24, 2012 8:00pm
    YBCA Forum

    Post-show meet-and-greet after the Thursday performance
    Post-show Q&A after the Friday performance

  • Smart Night Out: Eiko & Koma
    Mar 24, 2012 6:00pm

    If a YBCA performance is dinner, then Night School is the appetizer and the dessert. This first-of-its-kind program invites guests to immerse themselves in a range of dynamic activities surrounding Eiko and Koma’s Regeneration: Raven, Night Tide, White Dance.

    • Hear exclusive insights into Eiko and Koma’s work from our invited expert, choreographer Shinichi Iova-Koga
    • Engage in conversation with Bay Area dancers, tastemakers and cultural thinkers.
    • Sharpen your observation skills with a look into YBCA’s exhibitions.
    • Activate your body and mind to be present and attuned before the performance. Try on some of the choreography to enhance your connection to the work.
    • Indulge in a pre-show dinner custom-prepared to complement the night’s performance.
    • Debrief in our post-show space for reflection and cocktails.

    With this mélange of backstage experiences, you'll make the most of your Saturday night arts adventure and walk away with a new level of expertise in contemporary dance.

    Because space for this event is extremely limited, tickets for Smart Night Out are not available online. Please call the YBCA Box Office at 415-978-ARTS (415-978-2787)
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Related Programs

March 15, 2012 - March 17, 2012
YBCA Forum

Eiko & Koma and Kronos Quartet create an intimate performance work inspired by their latest living installation, Naked.

May 11, 2012 - May 12, 2012
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater

Women's Voices features works written specifically for Kronos Quartet including the world premiere of a new piece by Vân-Ánh Vanessa Võ, as well as three Bay Area premieres including Derek Charke’s Tundra Songs featuring Inuit throat singer Tanya Tagaq.

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Curator Statement

I think Land was the first piece I saw by Eiko and Koma. Oddly, I can’t remember the year. I can’t even remember the place, the theater, the city. But I will never forget how it affected me and how it launched me on my own journey of knowing and loving these two artists and their transformative brand of work we call dance.

To describe their work is to grasp for the incomprehensible. “Delicious movement’” is a workshop term they use, and it’s a pretty good one. Others describe their dance with words like “slow.” Beautiful. Slow. Naked. Slow. Intense. Slow. Above all, slow. Why is that aspect such a curiosity to us, their slowness?

Well, perhaps because so much of dance — and life — is about movement. Fast, often exuberant movement. Flurry and fury. I wonder sometimes if we keep moving so we don’t have to slow down and really look at ourselves, our lives and the world we are creating. Not just stop to smell the roses, as the cliché goes. But slow down enough to really go deep: to think more deeply, feel more deeply and know more deeply. That is the gift that the dance of Eiko and Koma gives us.

In participating in this retrospective of their 40-year career, you will have many chances to Reflect, the Big Idea that so fully captures the heart of their work. But reflection is not a passive activity. (It is no accident that their lives and work emanate from their radical anti-war activism in the ’60s.) People the world over have responded to the dance of these extraordinary artists with reflection, but also with activism. And this activism is what changes the world.

So don’t be fooled by slow. The energy in the slow of Eiko and Koma is what moves us. Forward.

Kenneth J. Foster
Executive Director

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Artist Bio

Eiko & Koma
Eiko (female) and Koma (male) were law and political science students in Japan when, in 1971, they each joined the Tatsumi Hijikata company in Tokyo. Their collaboration began as an experiment and then developed into an exclusive partnership. The following year, they started to work as independent artists in Tokyo and at the same time began to study with Kazuo Ohno, who along with Hijikata was the central figure in the Japanese avant-garde theatrical movement of the 1960s. Neither Eiko nor Koma studied traditional Japanese dance or theater forms, and have preferred to choreograph and perform only their own works.

Their interest in Neue Tanz, the German modern dance movement that flourished alongside the Bauhaus movement in art and architecture, and their desire to explore non-verbal theater took them to Hanover, Germany in 1972. There they studied with Manja Chmiel, a disciple of Mary Wigman. In 1973, they moved to Amsterdam, and for the next two years toured extensively in Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Tunisia. It was the late Lucas Hoving, a wonderful dancer who had toured with the early José Limón Dance Company, who encouraged them to go to America.

The Japan Society sponsored the first American performance of Eiko & Koma's White Dance in May of 1976. Since then, they have presented their works at theaters, universities, museums, galleries and festivals across North America, Europe and Japan.

Eiko & Koma’s noted stage collaborations include Hunger (2008, with Cambodian painters-turned-performers Peace and Charian), Mourning (2007, with pianist Margaret Leng Tan), Cambodian Stories (2006, with the Reyum Painting Collective of young Cambodian artists), Be With (2001, with Anna Halprin and Joan Jeanrenaud), When Nights Were Dark (2000, with Joseph Jennings and a Praise Choir), the proscenium version of River (1997, with Kronos Quartet, who performed Somei Satoh’s commissioned score live), and Land (1991, with Robert Mirabal).

Eiko & Koma have also created and presented site works as free-admission events at dozens of sites for over 35,000 audience members. River takes place in a body of moving water. The Caravan Project, a “museum by delivery” installation, is performed in a specially modified trailer. Offering, premiered in Battery Park near Ground Zero in 2002, is a ritual in communal mourning. Tree Song was presented in the St Mark’s Church’s graveyard in 2003. Water, another collaboration with Robert Mirabal, was performed in a reflection pool with Henry Moore sculpture and opened 2011 Lincoln Center Outdoor Festival.

Artists Notes

When we started the Retrospective Project, it struck us as an odd thing to do. However, we realized that it is 40 years since Koma and I met and 35 years since we moved to New York. In those 35 years, we have created some 40 pieces. It seemed like a good time to look back a little, so we can think about what is next.

The fact that many of our pieces are evening length has made it difficult for us to perform old works. And so we have often recycled movement, props and music we liked. For example, we wear similar costumes for Fur Seal, Tree Song and Mourning and we use similar materials for the sets of Breath and Tree. My “seaweed” solo belonged to White Dance but was used again in Wind (1993). This Retrospective Project is giving us an opportunity to go beyond recycling favorite phrases, and instead allows us to remember what we were thinking and find out how we think about it now.

Working on the project brought a little reflection. We usually make our own sets and costumes, choreographing on our own bodies. Inevitably we have had to grapple with our narrowness in movement vocabulary, tone and time sense. Thus, every time we make a work, we feel like we are squeezing ourselves dry, and that the work is the last one we ever want to make. But performing a piece and getting to know more about it has always brought us new juice and a refreshed desire. Looking back, this accumulation of our motifs and our limited versatility seem to have given us the kind of stubbornness, peculiarity and continuity we had wanted in our youth and still want for our life. There may not have been too many different things we both want to say or dance about, but we hope the Retrospective Project has made it clear that we really care about these few themes.

In all we found a renewed appreciation of what we have often taken for granted—our history of working together, the ephemerality (and non-materialistic nature) of performance works, and professional/personal relationships we have built with many individuals and institutions since we first came to the US in 1976. We love that every performing artist’s work only exists in a particular space and time, in the eyes of an audience, and in the body of a performer. At best what remains are some memories. We deeply recognize that our works and their residue have only been created with the help of cultural institutions and their curators and directors who have produced our work. In its essence our work has existed as an accumulated collaboration with other artists, field professionals and audience members.

The Bay Area dance community was a supportive home from the day we arrived in the US. With the help of Irene and Paul Oppenheim, the very first two people we met in 1976, we perhaps know more people and performed in more venues in this community than any other city except New York. The range of artists we collaborated with and the depths of friendship we treasure with them are most profound. Also we are deeply indebted to many viewers, friends, and presenters here. We are happy to return to Yerba Buena with the Retrospective Project and look forward to creating an exhibition that recognizes our special relationship with the Bay Area community.

Eiko & Koma

About Fragile

The work of Eiko and Koma makes me feel I've known it for much longer than I have. I remember seeing them for the first time on a video in early 1996. The slow motion of their dance and their bare bodies became a close friend to the iceberg of a personal grief that had filled me. Shortly after this video encounter I remember visiting them in Japan: a performance where they were just a few feet away with their painted nakedness. Somehow Eiko and Koma seemed to be making intimate physical and tactile connections to the sounds I have carried inside of me since I first heard string quartet music. I immediately realized that the friction of rosined horse hair against taut strings had parallels in their dance. Thus, River came into the life of Kronos in 1997. We have remained close since then.

Then in the summer of 2010 I visited them at the Armory in New York. I was totally unprepared for what I saw. I've never wept at a dance performance before. In a darkened space, their glacial nakedness had become a deeper expression than I remembered, much deeper and somehow more exposed. I realized that I was witnessing an absolute center of life, where all layers of protection are removed, where time is irrelevant. Their performance led me back once again to being a naked infant. The image I was left with was that we are all naked, aging infants in the face of the Universe. Eiko and Koma's bodies had become metaphors for the universal, fragile nakedness we try to hide. Their bare skin and awesome, slow movements had become a story of communal privacy. To me this is the precise area where music is most alive.

Eiko said, “Of course we don't really need music for our work.” What greater challenge can be issued to a group of musicians?

David Harrington

About Regeneration

Because our Retrospective Project changes its offerings depending on the venues and communities we visit, we wanted to make one piece that is a constant to the project. But, as such, the piece has to be scalable and adaptable so we can perform it in a theater, gallery or an outdoor site. Raven is inspired by remembering Land (1991) and it also carries the theme of hunger that we thought a lot about in creating Hunger (2008) with young Cambodian collaborators. It is on this hungry land that the image of a raven came in. The set consists of canvas cloth that we scorched and burned. With the help of friends, we got black feathers from Indonesia and Cambodia.

Night Tide
Night Tide is our longtime favorite. It was created in an old house in the Catskills where we lived from 1981 to 1983, and where nights were dark and mountains were our neighbors. The dance is inspired by a story of two mountains who make love in the middle of a night and have to return to their home before morning light. It is the first piece we perform fully nude as we realized almost everyone in the universe is naked.

White Dance
While studying dance in Europe, we performed in various places. We liked the idea of being a singer-songwriter sort of a dancer as something not at all capitalistic, but we knew nothing about choreography. For each performance we decided roughly what each of us would or might do in what order and always titled our performance White Dance. We were young and had a desire to start anew away from our teachers in Japan who were calling their work as the dance of Utter Darkness. Once, when Eiko was injured, we were ready to stop dancing. “Not until you go to New York,” said Lucas Hoving, a friend and our teacher in the Netherlands. We postponed abandoning Eiko & Koma. When we received an invitation from Beate Gordon to perform at the Japan Society in New York, we made a little more choreographic effort. By our actually deciding on music, costumes and program notes, this White Dance became our first choreographed piece. In 1976, on our way to New York, Irene and Paul Oppenheim, the first people we met in the US, produced an impromptu invitation-only concert in San Francisco, giving us the taste of an American audience. In the following four months in New York City, we performed White Dance at six venues. It was through this piece we met many friends, which made us move to New York the following year and eventually become Asian American artists.

Eiko and Koma

Artists Correspondence
Between Eiko Otake (of Eiko & Koma) and David Harrington (of Kronos Quartet):

Eiko wrote the following to David Harrington:
Koma and I love how Kronos ends each piece of music. Every time we see Kronos perform, this moment leaves no less impression than the first time we saw them. At the end of each piece, the last note resonates while each member holds the position of how they played the last note. Their bodies are not frozen—they are enjoying the resonance of the music and how it is absorbed into space. The note lingers as silence advances. Just as when a movement lingers into a form and then a form dissolves a few moments later. This is when we all recognize beauty, more than music. The beauty seizes our eyes, ears and minds. We realize that silence hardly exists in nature, but, in the brief moment between the last note played and the applause that is to come, there is a definitive and profound silence we get to experience.

14 years later after working with Kronos on River, we are older and even more fragile. As contemporaries, what kind of music and silence will Kronos play for our two bodies, which we offer as a male and a female form—a primal pair, not full of human stories of dramas, just ancient creatures. What kind of melody will Kronos offer when these two bodies are exhausted or weakened? What sounds and whispers exist in this fragile environment that we all live in? How can we offer our helplessness as a source of strength and compassion?

David Harington wrote the following to Eiko after seeing a work-in-progress showing of Eiko & Koma’s: Naked at the Park Avenue Armory in New York:
I was totally unprepared for what I saw. I've never wept at a dance performance before. In a darkened space, their glacial nakedness had become a deeper expression than I remembered, much deeper and somehow more exposed. I realized that I was witnessing an absolute center of life, where all layers of protection are removed, where time is irrelevant. Their performance led me back once again to being a naked infant. Eiko and Koma's bodies had become metaphors for the universal, fragile nakedness we try to hide. Their bare skin and awesome, slow movements had become a story of communal privacy. To me this is the precise area where music is most alive.

Later, Eiko said, “Of course we don't really need music for our work.” What greater challenge can be issued to a group of musicians?

Eiko & Koma's Retrospective is a project of Inta, Inc., produced by Sam Miller and made possible, in part, by major support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, with additional support from the Japan Foundation’s Performing Arts Japan program, the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Support for reconstructions of early work was provided in part by the American Express Foundation.

The creation of Raven was made possible, in part, with funds from the 2009-2010 Danspace Project Commissioning Initiative. Additional support was provided by the National Dance Project and the Japan Foundation’s Performing Arts Japan program.

Night Tide was commissioned by Dance Theater Workshop of New York under a grant from the Jerome Foundation of Saint Paul, MN. Additional support was provided by National Endowment for the Arts.

White Dance was the first work Eiko & Koma showed in the United States (by Japan Society, New York on May 6, 1976 and at Theater Gumption in San Francisco the proceeding week). Its recreation was commissioned, with the support of the National Endowment for the Arts, by the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts (Burlington, VT), where it was performed in May 2008.

YBCA's programs are made possible in part by:
Abundance Foundation
Koret Foundation
National Endowment for the Arts
Novellus Systems

YBCA Performance 11–12 is made possible in part by:
Doris Duke Charitable Foundation
The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation

Additional Funding for YBCA Performance 11–12:
Zellerbach Family Foundation
Panta Rhea Foundation
Cultural Services of the French Embassy
New England Foundation for the Arts
and Members of Yerba Buena Center for the Arts