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Trio Explores Concepts of Time, Isolation at La Boca

September 14, 1998|LEWIS SEGAL | TIMES DANCE CRITIC

Perhaps the most indelible achievement of "thestreamofconsciousness" at La Boca performance space on Saturday took place while audience members were arriving and buying tickets. Just a few feet away, lying under a courtyard citrus tree, local butoh specialist Oguri performed a half-hour solo--a study in tiny incremental changes of alignment in which he never seemed to be in motion but drifted imperceptibly, over many minutes, into major positional shifts like a cloud steadily moving across a landscape.

This sense of time represents a notably underappreciated facet of butoh for a Euro-American audience that usually perceives the art as a series of grotesque, isolated images: a neo-Expressionist photo-op. But, as Oguri ever so slowly staggered out of the courtyard and inside La Boca's playing area, the flow of time proved central to this new trio formed with Jamie Burris and Sherwood Chen, a trio scheduled to tour Great Britain in October.

Against a howling, environmental sound-score by Robert Scott, periodically embellished by the delicate guitar playing of Arnie Saiki, the threesome moved between a wide front area and a narrow room at the back. Sometimes very close to one another, with Burris even bumping into Chen toward the end, they never acknowledged anyone else's existence but executed parallel movement rituals as if in separate worlds. As a result, this hourlong trio section seemed most of all a bleak vision of human isolation: each individual moving forward in time, backward in memory and inward in fantasy, always alone.

Every so often their actions would link up conceptually--Burris and Chen positioned for tumbling, for example, while Oguri performed vault after vault. Moreover, brief teetering, peering and head-lashing sequences found them in actual synchrony, perhaps suggesting those experiences and feelings that people share in their solitary lives without noticing or caring.

Otherwise, "thestreamofconsciousness" represented three simultaneous solos, with Burris initially huddled under an umbrella and later trying to walk with one foot bare and one in a high-heeled shoe, inevitably sprawling painfully to the floor. Meanwhile Chen raised an enormous bucket over his head and overturned it, drenching himself and in the process calming his hyperactive hopping and twitching.

During all this, Oguri seemed an embodiment of pure instinct, no longer buffeted by the wind and moving against it (as in part of the courtyard section), but a directionless, prowling animal seeking a safe haven and reacting violently against pain. In his previous group works, nobody could match his amazing concentration and physical control; this time, however, the excellence of Burris and especially the charismatic Chen suggested that his own isolation as a performer may at last be ending.

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