Summer Sampler Program Notes | By Marie Tollon

Summer Sampler’s program juxtaposes a multiplicity of verbal and non-verbal languages that convey narratives of love, betrayal and dislocation.

ODC/Dance in Kimi Okada's "I look vacantly at the Pacific ... though regret" Photo by Margo Moritz

ODC/Dance in Kimi Okada’s
“I look vacantly at the Pacific
… though regret”
Photo by Margo Moritz

For both of her pieces, Kimi Okada researched the multiple ways in which the body speaks through signs and gestures. Thus the material that constitutes Two If By Sea is developed from non-verbal languages, such as Morse code, flag semaphore or Navajo code. For I look vacantly at the Pacific… though regret, Okada wove insulting gestures from around the globe into the movement vocabulary to explore miscommunications in the context of cultural differences. A third generation Japanese American, Okada grew up in the Midwest, isolated from any Asian community. Curious about her Japanese heritage, she spent a year in Japan in college, and felt that she was “always doing the wrong thing: I was trying to shake hands when you are supposed to bow; I was using language that only men use; I found myself really isolated and felt lonely.”

Adding to the sense of inadequacy that being in a foreign land can trigger, voices from instructional tapes of English idioms for Japanese businessmen create a quirky sonic background for the first section of I look vacantly. In both Okada’s piece and Brenda Way’s Scissors Paper Stone, the spoken word adds an intricate layer of meaning to the language of dance. Scissors starts with an excerpt of A Street Car named Desire’s script. As the piece progresses, the tension between the three performers escalates to the poetic violence of Jimi Hendrick’s Hey Joe. The O.J. Simpson trial was unfolding when Way was creating Scissors, and its narrative “fueled the direction of the trio toward a violent mode,” Way shared.

Gestures, movements, signs and words combine to offer multi-layered portraits of individuals whose successful or failed attempts to communicate and relate to each other speak to the inner need for human connection.

ODC/Dance presents Summer Sampler at ODC Theater, from July 23 through July 25.

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