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SIX DEGREES DANCE

Cecly Placenti, Artistic Director

  • Writer's pictureCecly Placenti

saraika movement collective: Double Bind

Choreography: Sara Pizzi and Aika Takeshima

Performers: Faustine Lavie, Mayu Nakaya, Maitlin Jordan, Haley Morgan Miller, Sara Pizzi, Aika Takeshima, Ariana Wellmoney

Hair Design: Takeo Suzuki

Costume Design: Federica Borlenghi

Production Dates: March 24, 2023 (premiere), April 22, 2023, November 2 and 4, 2023

 

 

A line of six women stands facing the audience, their posture straight and strong. They recite a litany of female names, some recognizable like Eleanor Roosevelt, others unknown, as they begin walking in precise linear pathways around the stage. Solos arise from within these patterns, the cast of seven women moving with grounded power, almost tribal. Uniquely feminine gestures surface- pulling on stockings, Barbie walks on tip-toe, the seductive circling of wrists. From the onset of Double Bind, contradiction is evident.


sarAika movement collective, founded by Aika Takeshima and Sara Pizzi, aims to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion through dance and human connection. Double Bind, premiered in 2023 as part of the Spark Theater Festival’s Emerging Artist Series, explores the experiences, both positive and negative, that woman share across cultures and demographics. The piece’s power lies in its structure as well as its symbolism. Geometric spatial patterns evoke a sense of confinement, an almost robotic adherence to social norms. These walking pathways, used throughout the work, define and limit the space around other bodies and give Double Bind a propulsive feel. Pizzi and Takeshima’s movement vocabulary highlights both the force and vulnerability of womanhood. Deep lunges and aggressive kicks melt into luscious spinal undulations and precarious hinges. Floor movements showcase physical toughness while detailed hand gestures point to nuanced sensitivity. Yet even as the dancers traverse the stage in loping runs or stop to explore the space around them, they give the impression of being bound, arms reaching and recoiling, looking for new places to find freedom within their environment. Although individuals, the women clearly exist in community. During moments of contact, they brace one another, guiding each other into lifts and supports through gentle yet determined touch.


The term double bind refers to a dilemma in communication in which individuals or a group receive two conflicting messages, one negating the other. Pizzi and Takeshima, both queer, immigrant women, dive into gender stereotypes that cross cultural boundaries: Be beautiful, but beauty is only skin deep. Be sexy, but not sexual. Be polite, but be yourself. Spoken word layered over a driving score, recorded from interviews conducted with the dancers, give voice to the imagery on stage. Musings about feeling squeezed into a box of assumptions, inconsistencies and stereotypes serve as proof that in a diverse cast of women, many experiences are shared.

The costumes by Federica Borlenghi emphasize contradiction. The women wear long black skirts with high side slits, revealing bike shorts and bare legs. Sheer mesh tops covering black sports bras imply modesty while allowing glimpses of bare midriffs- a blend of athletic and sexy. They wear leather caps with long blonde braids that wrap around their bodies like ropes. Designed by Takeo Suzuki, these head pieces represent classical symbols of femininity and give the performers a warrior like appearance. Hair braiding is an ancient practice, and Pizzi and Takeshima use it as an analogy for circumstances that are time-worn and difficult to change.


For most of Double Bind, these braids stay bound. But when several women slide along the floor, their long hair dragging behind them, the others are presented with a choice: take action or perpetuate standards. Suddenly the hair pieces become partners and the women use them to pull, lead, drag and manipulate one another. A metaphor for the attributes women possess that are often utilized as means of control, the dancers sometimes lead each other around forcefully like dogs on a leash and at others form a cats-cradle of supportive connection. They whip their hair with abandon, flinging their bodies into turns and jumps in a frenzy of ecstatic movement.


The all-female cast of Double Bind presents and interesting question. Do the women represent ancient patriarchal structures, or do they also represent the ways women betray one another? Perhaps it is both. In the end as the performers gather their braids into one final web, a dancer is caught in the middle, unable to escape. Another performer grabs her braid, extending it towards the audience like a challenge. The last bit of text is heard softly before blackout: “It is your choice.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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