How melodically named is Ayano Yokoyama’s truncated adaptation of her longer work Sea. I’ve no idea what the new title means, nor am I certain what the Japanese choreographer-dancer means her well-produced solo to convey. Who is this animated but expressionless automaton moving, with pixilated mimetic articulacy, before a vast backdrop of empty, suspended plastic bottles?
She occupies a watery-seeming twilit world, taking her cues from a soundtrack that shifts from percussive patterns and choral chanting to thudding beats and big rock guitar. To this Yokoyama brings hopping leaps, origami-like body angles and finger filigree. But then this loner is struggling for breath, calling soundlessly – for help, or in warning? Could environmental issues be the piece’s underpinnings?
As a climax, Yokoyama makes those bottles vibrate, but her sweeping gesture feels dramatically naive. The obscurity of her stage persona’s seeming distress left me mystified, indifferent. What pulled me through was her sincerely quirky proficiency.
Floating plastic bottles, like a wall of lit silver sardines, is the serene yet puzzling backdrop of Suiyobaion. Bubbling electronic music pulls us into an under-water cyberspace. The message seems to be: information no longer takes its time to reach us, for instance by bottle mail from far away. Instead we are overflowing with information. It comes to us in towering waves; we are streaming and drowning in it.
Ayano Yokoyama´s movement language is set within this imaginary seascape. She explores waving motions through arms and torso, tilts slightly like a ship at stormy sea, scuttles sideways like a crab on shore. Her fast, precise isolations and ultra-musicality stem from a hip-hop background. There are few moments where she pauses and allows impressions to settle within us, as the musical overload steers the work in a fairly narrow direction. The lighting design is always slightly ahead of the dancing, leading the way. But, like many contemporary people, Yokoyama is a latecomer to a world in crisis. First comes the knowledge, after the action.
Even before the beginning of the performance, Suiyoubaion presents to us a wall of hanging plastic bottles. Their subtle movement and reflections evoke images of glistening crystals, gigantic seaweed, polluted oceans and lines of computer code. The movement and tone of Ayano Yokoyama’s solo undergo continuous transformations, accompanied by moody light, shapeshifting soundscapes and changes of costume with an overstated theatricality.
Yokoyama’s initially constrained, marionette-like gestures flow into a seemingly anxiety-ridden intimacy between her and her own capable body, discharged into liberating moments that suggest lonesome club dancing or a rock concert without songs. What unites Yokoyama’s various states of being is her persistently enigmatic presence, and the transmission of her energetic impulses onto us. Although delightfully executed, this shorter version of an earlier performance left me longing to see how it could possibly unfold beyond the decorative.
The quality of arrested movement seems to be a recurrent theme in Ayano Yokoyama’s Suiyoubaion. Accompanied by an abruptly changing soundtrack (from Krautrock synths via rock drums to a techno beat), her joints pop and lock in perfect synchronicity. Soft moves and quick-snap stops bring her from upstage to down. Her eyes hardly look up, and if they do it is with a distressed expression which, to European sensibilities, might comes across as peculiarly akin to slapstick.
Her gestures are executed with great skill, yet there’s a feeling of uncertainty that culminates with her writhing on the floor bathed in foggy twilight. Strung-up plastic bottles lit from below form a flashy, sometimes tacky backdrop. Yokoyama bats against the bottles, making them jangle, sending their reflection into all directions. Is she as trapped as the light inside them? Is she a genie of indecision?