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Koma (left) and Eiko in 1993. Photo by Philip Trager, courtesy of the photographer

Eiko Otake and Takashi Koma Otake are interdisciplinary performance artists from Japan who have been creating work together since 1972. Although they don't consider their work butoh—a Japanese performance art recognizable for its intensity, control and heavy white makeup—their creative aesthetic is strongly influenced by it. The work is distinctive for its extremely slow, minimalistic movement and their collaborative, hands-on approach to every aspect, from movement to costumes to sets.

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Sophie Maslow (left), Jane Dudley (center) and William Bales in Dudley's Passional (1950). Photo by Arnold Eagle, courtesy of Dance Magazine archives

Lurching slowly forward, a homeless woman appears from the wing with her body hunched and arms extended. With ambient street sounds as the score, she traverses the stage, crawling, reaching and heaving her body. Periodically, she turns to stare at the audience. Inspired by the art of Käthe Kollwitz and a childhood memory of a poverty-stricken woman scavenging, Eve Gentry's solo, Tenant of the Street, conveys a distinct perspective about economic inequality.

This work was created in 1938 under the auspices of the New Dance Group, a modern dance collective founded six years before. It conveys the NDG's ethos but also resonates in today's political and economic climate. So much so that the Martha Graham Dance Company included it in its 2010 concert “Dance Is a Weapon." “The young artform of modern dance was empowered and validated by its alignment with political and social issues of the day," says Janet Eilber, artistic director of the MGDC. “And the NDG was really in the center of that. They were leading the charge."

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