Kota Yamazaki | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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This Japanese choreographer and dancer begins what's essentially a solo performance by flopping around looking spastic, a crumpled heap of body parts all moving independently of one another. One black-socked foot pokes into the floor, the other is pointed skyward; his legs are splayed, his arms pinned behind him awkwardly. Once he stands, his movements look fey and swishy, with the relaxed feet and hands of an untrained dancer. Later in the piece, however, that softness enables a virtuosic fluidity of motion. And in fact Yamazaki has been trained in ballet, modern dance, and butoh. I took The Day of Africa, his evening-length piece, to be an offbeat exploration: what is "natural" movement anyway? What Yamazaki is doing doesn't look natural--he sometimes resembles a bug stuck on a pin or a snake wriggling out of its skin--but his awkwardness may be closer to everyday movement than most dance. A dog shows up, along with a woman dressed like a schoolgirl who doesn't do much more than the mutt. And the score, made up mostly of down-tempo rock songs, sounds so inane it might be parodic. But what do I know? Press materials say that The Day of Africa reflects on Yamazaki's time collaborating with Compagnie Jant-bi from Senegal (Fagaala, the piece they created together, will be shown beginning Thursday; see separate listing). Perhaps that performance would make this one clearer. But judging by this work, Yamazaki--the founder of Rosy Co., which appeared here in 2000--is an original but seemingly self-involved performer whose dancing is alternately engaging and repellent. Dance Center of Columbia College, 1306 S. Michigan, 312-344-8300. Friday-Saturday, April 16-17, 8 PM. $20-$24. Note: There will be a discussion with the artists after the Friday performance, and a panel discussion with Yamazaki, Compagnie Jant-bi director Germaine Acogny, and Jawole Willa Jo Zollar of Urban Bush Women on Tuesday, April 20, at 7 PM at the Dance Center. Free, but reservations are recommended.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Arnold Groschel.

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