Eiko Otake and Takashi Koma Otake, generally known as Eiko & Koma, are a Japanese performance duo. Since 1972, Eiko & Koma have worked as co-artistic directors, choreographers, and performers, creating a unique theater of movement out of stillness, shape, light, sound, and time. For most of their multi-disciplinary works, Eiko & Koma also create their own sets and costumes, and they are usually the sole performers in their work. Neither of them studied traditional Japanese dance or theater forms and prefer to choreograph and perform only their own works. They do not bill their work as Butoh though Eiko & Koma cite Kazuo Ohno (a Butoh pioneer) as their main inspiration.
Eiko & Koma are permanent residents of the United States in New York City. They have presented their works in theaters, universities, museums, galleries, and festivals worldwide, including numerous appearances in American Dance Festival, five seasons at BAM’s Next Wave Festival, four seasons at the Joyce Theater, and a month-long “living” gallery installation in the Whitney Museum of American Art. They were 1996 recipients of a MacArthur Fellows Program “genius grant”.
Eiko (born in 1952) and Koma (born in 1948) were law and political science students in Tokyo when, in 1971, they each joined Tatsumi Hijikata’s company. Their collaboration began as an experiment and then developed into an exclusive partnership. They started to work as independent artists in Tokyo in 1972 and at the same time began to study with Kazuo Ohno, who, along with Hijikata, was a central figure in the Japanese avant-garde theatrical movement of the 1960s. Their interest in Neue Tanz took them to Hanover, Germany in 1972 where they studied with Manja Chmiel, a disciple of Mary Wigman. In 1973, they moved to Amsterdam, and for the next two years toured extensively in Europe.
The Japan Society sponsored the first American performance of Eiko & Koma's White Dance in May 1976. In 1983 Eiko & Koma performed for the first time at the American Dance Festival, which later commissioned many of their works. New Moon Stories (1986) at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Next Wave Festival marked their 10th anniversary in the United States and the first of five commissions from BAM. In 1996, Japan Society celebrated Eiko & Koma’s 20th anniversary by presenting Autumn Passage.
Eiko & Koma have toured to England, France, Germany, Finland, Switzerland, Netherlands, Austria, Israel, Portugal, Russia, Poland, the Baltic countries, Tunisia, Colombia, Brazil, Argentina, Korea, China, Taiwan, Cambodia, and Japan.
Eiko & Koma’s iconoclastic work combines slow and nuanced movement vocabulary with bold theatrical design. Whether performing in a theater or in natural sites outdoors, Eiko & Koma often move as if they are not human. By doing so, they paradoxically evoke utterly human emotions from their viewers. Eiko & Koma’s movement and choreography often progress in a scale of time that is radically different from everyday life or other theater productions. Many critics have used the term “glacier-like” to express the progression of their movement towards something unexpected. Eiko & Koma believe that humans are a part of nature and through their work they hope for humans to remember that. Many of their works contain nudity, which emphasizes the vulnerability of humans and transforms their appearance so they do not have everyday human bodies. Eiko, when asked about this aspect of their work in an interview, is quoted as saying, “A fish is naked and stone is naked. Why not us?”
In 1996, Eiko & Koma were named MacArthur Fellows—the first time in the program’s fifteen-year history that the foundation awarded a fellowship to collaborators. They were named John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellows in 1984. They were awarded one of the first “Bessies” (the New York Dance and Performance Awards) in 1984 for their works Grain and Night Tide, and were honored again in 1990 for Passage. In 2004, Eiko & Koma received the Samuel H. Scripps/American Dance Festival Award for lifetime achievement in modern dance. In 2006 they were awarded with a Dance Magazine award and were designated among the first United States Artists.
Eiko & Koma’s noted stage collaborations include Mourning, (2007, with pianist Margaret Leng Tan), Cambodian Stories: An Offering of Painting and Dance, (2006, with young artists who graduated from the Reyum Art School), Offering (2003, with the clarinetist David Krakauer), Be With (2001, with Anna Halprin and cellist Joan Jeanrenaud), When Nights Were Dark (2000, with composer Joseph Jennings and a Praise Choir), the proscenium version of River (1997, with the Kronos Quartet, who performed Somei Satoh’s commissioned score live), Wind (1993, with Chanticleer and its music director Joseph Jennings) Land (1991, with Native American flutist/composer Robert Mirabal, American visual artist Sandra Lerner), By The River (1986, with visual artist Clayton Campbell) and Fluttering Black (1979, with Glenn Branca). Both When Nights Were Dark (2000) and Mourning (2007) were chosen as the year’s ten best dance works by the New York Times.
Designed to be performed in an intimate space, Eiko & Koma’s stage work Death Poem (2005) is a meditation on dying. Cambodian Stories (2006) toured to twelve cities in the United States in the spring of 2006. Charian and Peace, the two youngest of their Cambodian collaborators, performed a restaged version Grain and collaborated with Eiko & Koma in Quartet, both seen at the American Dance Festival in 2007. Their recent work, Hunger, was co-commissioned by the Walker Art Center and the Joyce Theater for the Joyce’s 25th anniversary and premiered in the fall of 2008. The Walker Art Center also commissioned their 2010 work Naked.
In addition to performing in theaters, during the past decade Eiko & Koma have created and presented site-adaptable performance installations at dozens of sites for more than 35,000 audience members. They have performed in sites such as parks, gardens, campus greens, private land, parking lots, city plazas, lakes, ponds, and graveyards. Outdoor works are usually presented as free-admission events. River (1995) takes place in a body of moving water. Breath (1998), commissioned by the Whitney Museum of American Art, is a “living” gallery installation. At the Whitney, Eiko & Koma performed for four weeks during museum hours. The Caravan Project (1999), performed in a specially modified trailer, is a “museum by delivery” installation. Offering, which premiered in New York’s Battery Park near Ground Zero in 2002, is a ritual of communal mourning. Dancing in the Street produced Offering in parks, plazas and gardens throughout Manhattan and Eiko & Koma later toured the work across America and internationally. Tree Song (2004) honors trees, their resilience, rebirth and endurance. Offering, Tree Song, and Cambodian Stories Revisited (2007) were all performed in the St Mark’s Church graveyard in Manhattan. Water (2011) was co-commissioned by the Lincoln Center and will be premiered in the Paul Milstein reflecting pool in Hearst Plaza, New York.
Eiko & Koma are currently working on constructing a retrospective of their work (2009–2012). This project will include new commissions of a living installation and a stage work, reworking of older pieces, outdoor performances, photo exhibitions, video installations, showings of their media dances and documentaries, the publication of a retrospective catalog, workshops and other educational activities such as panel discussions and lectures. Raven (2010) was developed for the retrospective project. The first series of performances performed as part of the Retrospective project was titled Regeneration (2010). Time is Not Even: Space is Not Empty is a retrospective exhibition that was first shown in progress at Wesleyan University's Zilkha Gallery in 2009. In 2011, the exhibition opened at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago with performances of Naked, The Caravan Project, and Regeneration.
Eiko & Koma offer their Delicious Movement Workshop in every community they visit. They have taught semester long courses at UCLA and the City University of New York. Eiko is a Center for Creative Research (CCR) artist-in-residence at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut. She teaches interdisciplinary classes in the departments of Dance, East Asian Studies, and History. Eiko and Koma are in the process of teaching an interdisciplinary dance theory course at Colorado College.Water (2011)
Mourning (performed with Margaret Leng Tan, 2007)
Grain (restaged in 2007 and danced by Charian and Peace)
Cambodian Stories Revisited (2007)
Cambodian Stories (2006)
Death Poem (2005)
Tree Song (2004)
Be With (2001)
When Nights Were Dark (2000)
The Caravan Project (1999)
River (proscenium version, 1997)
River (outdoor environmental version, 1995)
New Moon Stories (1986)
Broken Pieces (1986)
By The River (1986)
Night Tide (1984)
Nurse's Song (1981)
Fluttering Black (1979)
Before The Cock Crows (1978)
Fur Seal (1977)
White Dance (1976)