Freedom in Constraints: Sara Coffin Contributor

The Dance Seen

Eunoia is a masterful layering of interconnected and uniquely individual elements. The intertwining of text, movement, video, and sound create a surreal absurdist playground full of lightness and delight. The dance of the layered production elements is almost as complicated and simple as the movement choreography in itself.

Fujiwara takes her inspiration and challenge of working within constraints from Christian Bök’s book Eunoia. Published in 2001, Bök’s book of poetry is written as a univocal lipogram, where each of the five chapters isolates a vowel and in doing so exhibits the vowel’s distinct personality.

The word Eunoia is the shortest word in English to contain all five vowels – meaning ‘beautiful thinking.’ Viewing Live Art Dance’s presentation of Eunoia on Thursday evening, I was struck by the craft and masterful thinking of Fujiwara and her collaborative team. Rendering the stage version of Eunoia as a beautiful embodiment of beautiful thinking.

Entering the theatre we are welcomed by the performers and are invited to join in on a game of Hangman. Lightness and humour is introduced and the permission for active engagement is set. The stage is littered with various childhood games such as playing cards, Jacks, and pick up sticks; perhaps positioned as a foreshadow to the audience preparing us for the linguistic guess gaming we were about to experience.

In her program notes, and during a pre-show chat that I was lucky enough to sit in on, Fujiwara explains her movement invention is restricted to univocal body parts corresponding to each chapter. For example in chapter A, the palm, the back, the jaw, etc. initiate movement. The composer, Phil Strong was also restricted to composing with univocal instruments; where in Chapter O we heard the sounds of spoons, Bongo, pots.

The seemingly nonsensical or unrelated but layered production elements of text, video projection, colourful costume changes, and task directed choreography, unfold into an engaging surrealist play and bricolage of events. However, equally as fun as guessing what each element was restricted by, I thoroughly enjoyed watching the piece expand and contract – breathing within its own beautiful thinking. Where moments of chaos are swept away by moments of calming space or a visual display of snowing letters. I shared in the game of categorizing and labelling the code of conduct but I never tired in the cognitive task of guessing the rules. I am enchanted by the unique pairings and immediately set at ease within the mystery of Furjiwara’s craftsmanship.

In Chapter O the poetic resonances of all the combined elements came together for me in a touching moment when one performer reciting text based on gluttonous food, is engulfed by four performers mouthing (initiated by the pons – a part of the brainstem associated with facial movement) to the sounds of pots. The mouthing, the bodies sinking, the sounds of pots clanging, and hearing text of over abundance and disproportion move me.

Throughout Eunoia the performers operate within the constraints of the work with a generous presence and they utilize the need to stick with a task to their full advantage keeping me engaged and with them in every moment.

I caught 52 items of constraint, yet experienced 70 minutes of theatrical freedom.

An example of Christian Bök’s Eunoia can be read through this online link, but you can only experience the mastery and delight of Denise Fujiwara’s Eunoia live thanks to our local dance presenter Live Art Dance Production.

If you are curious, here is my list:

Jazz, Palm, Back, Rap, Harp, Jaw, fatal, Dress, Wrestle, Referee, Heel, Knee, Bells, Temple, Whistling, Sing, String, Signing, Fish, Wig, Iris, Hip, Kiss, Shoot, photo, Fog Horn, Golf, Broom, Yoyo, Popcorn, Boots, Loop, Homologous, Mouthing (pons), Spoons, Bongo, Blow, Pots, Roll, Rock, Slow, Stop, Snow, Snowing Letters, Club, Cup, Upside down, Push-ups, Surf.

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