You Took a Part of Me at New York Live Arts
Wednesday, October 23 at 7:30 p.m.
Friday, October 25 at 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, October 26 at 7:30 p.m.
New York Live Arts – 219 West 19th Street (between 7th and 8th Avenues)
Admission: $25–$35/$15 seniors and students
Following a sold-out season at Japan Society in April, internationally acclaimed choreographer Karole Armitage brings her latest dance production, You Took a Part of Me, inspired by Japanese Noh theater, to New York Live Arts.
You Took a Part of Me is loosely inspired by dream Noh, which draws on Murasaki Shikibu’s 11th century novel The Tale of Genji. Rather than telling a story, You Took a Part of Me is an archetypal investigation of a woman revisiting love complications situated in a dreamlike state of time and memory. It explores erotic entanglement, unresolved attachments, and the search for harmony, all hallmarks of dream Noh theater.
You Took a Part of Me is performed by three dancers playing the roles of the ghost, her double, and her lover, with a fourth dancer serving as a transformer, known as koken in Noh. Using various dance vocabularies that adhere to the austerity and minimalism of Noh, the four dancers conjure the past using sinuous movement based on the curvilinear paths of classical Japanese calligraphy. The dance gradually becomes thorny as limbs are locked into contorted entanglements, knots from which there is no escape and no definition of individuality, but which remain erotically charged.
The performance takes place within a sculptural installation that transforms Live Arts’s stage to evoke Noh conventions. A square platform of traditional Noh stage proportions creates an intimate presence between the audience and performers. The installation also features a modern take on the mirror room or kagami-no-ma—a room never seen by Noh audiences, which here becomes a place of visible transformation—and the bridge or hashigakari, which connects the mirror room to the stage. The spare, otherworldly lighting frames the work’s poetic and haunting themes.
“To confront Noh head-on has been an intimidating task. In undertaking this project, I realized that much of my work over the last 20 years has been obliquely addressing Noh, my favorite of the performing arts,” says Armitage. “The Noh method of making meaning—combining the rigorous enactment of mechanics in an impersonal devotion to form—releases insight into what is most secret, deep, and mysterious in our inner life. This is profoundly moving to me. Noh is abstract and impersonal, yet becomes profoundly raw and emotional as it unfolds.”
You Took a Part of Me is choreographed by Karole Armitage with advisement by Melissa McCormick, a Harvard professor of Japanese culture. Armitage’s longtime dancer/collaborator Megumi Eda performs the lead role with Armitage Gone! dancers Sierra French, Cristian Laverde-Koenig, and Alonso Guzman. The production features commissioned music by Reiko Yamada for acoustic instruments (flute, alto flute, shinobue, shamisen, nutshell percussion, ryuteki bamboo flute) and electronics. Costume design is by Peter Speliopoulos and installation and lighting design is by Clifton Taylor, both of whom are longtime Armitage collaborators. Hair design is by Danilo.
Over the past 30 years, Karole Armitage and her dancers have shaped the evolution of contemporary dance through the creation and performance of new works. The most recent incarnation of the company, Armitage Gone! Dance (AG!D), was launched in 2004 when Armitage returned to the US after 15 years of working abroad. AG!D is known for its collaborations with innovators in music, science, and the visual arts.
Karole Armitage, known as the ‘punk ballerina’, is the Artistic Director of the New York-based Armitage Gone! Dance Company. She rigorously trained in classical ballet and is renowned for pushing the boundaries to create contemporary works. She performed in Balanchine’s Grand Théâtre de Genève Company and in the Merce Cunningham Dance Company prior to founding her own company in New York City in 1981. She is the recipient of a Radcliffe Fellowship at Harvard University and received a Simons Fellowship at the University of Kansas in 2016 to study Native American Plains Culture. Armitage is currently an MIT Media Lab Directors Fellow, investigating how to bring new technology with a poetic impact to the stage.
You Took a Part of Me was made in collaboration with the MIT Media Lab.
Photo credit: Steven Pisano