The Caravan Project at Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center
Kate Gibson

Eiko and Koma’s ‘Caravan Project’ is a fond farewell to U-Md

  • The Washington Post, May 4, 2012
  • Pamela Squires

Sentimental is not the adjective that comes to mind when one thinks of Eiko and Koma, the veteran Japanese-born, New York-based collaborators who are in their fifth decade of creating innovative works that feel suspended somewhere between dance and sculpture, movement and stillness. Their works tend to be intense and melancholic.

Yet their presentation Thursday of their 1999 “The Caravan Project,” an installation performed in a modified caravan open on three sides, was a sentimental occasion. It marked the end of the couple’s year-long residency at the University of Maryland. “Caravan” took place on the grass between the entrance to the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center and a busy traffic roundabout.

The night was balmy and the moon almost full.

“Look!” said someone. “There’s the caravan now!”

There in the distance, slowly driving up Stadium Boulevard, came an SUV towing the caravan. Two sides were open. Inside, it was glowing with light. Eiko peered about curiously. What must people driving by have been thinking?

The caravan pulled up. Anticipation was high. But then it slowly slipped back into traffic, went round the roundabout and drove away. What a wonderful beginning.

To be sure, it came back and drove onto the grass. Koma got out, opened the caravan’s back doors and crawled in.

The next 40 minutes was a succession of ghostly events that began with Koma slowly tipping out of the caravan and sliding onto his head in the grass.

Imagine this. Eiko lies in the grass in a pool of light. Koma covers her with branches. They slowly rise, then tip over backward. A car with a noisy muffler cruises by.

He squats over a bush, then returns with flowers. They intertwine and stumble backward toward the caravan. Some of the flowers tumble to the ground. The “111 Silver Spring” bus rumbles by, its bright lights a fleeting part of the vision.

Finally, they drive away.

The last image was of the caravan, towed by Koma driving the SUV, disappearing down Stadium Boulevard with Eiko’s impossibly long-looking, white arm waving in the air.

“Look!” said one of the students excitedly. “She’s waving goodbye to us!” Indeed, it was a sweet and personal farewell.

Staff breaks down the lights and coils the cables. It’s a wrap.

Squires is a freelance writer.
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