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Black squiggles and blobs in space

Designer gives dancers tire-tube waists and lumpy backs

Indulge the bulge: Designer does dance.
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Published 2/27/2008

Dissonant sounds, oscillating from somewhere within the heart of the huge room at MOCAD, provide a jarring, abstract soundtrack for the motion and asymmetry of Kawakubo's garments. The music is Takehisa Kosugi's score for the 1997 dance "Scenario," by reknowned modern and contemporary choreographer Merce Cunningham and costumed by Kawakubo. In video excerpts of a rehearsal, casually projected against a blank wall, the dancers hover and dart on a stark white stage in her designs, popping out like animated graffiti in lopsided patterns of green gingham, periwinkle stripes, black squiggles and a red blob.

Kawakubo has taken the very 'fabric' of "Scenario," the dancers' bodies, and knocked them out of their classically beautiful form by implanting sizable, down-filled pouches into their medley of colorful garments. These new, anti-dancer shapes — tire-tube waists and lumpy backs — cut into the environment so that the surrounding space is just as compelling to watch as Cunningham's trademark inventive choreography of linear movement, quick shifts of weight and stag leaps. It's no surprise that Kawakubo would hook up with Cunningham, a guru of all things experimental and random. Yet at the same time, her bold stitches undo Cunningham's conformity with at least one aesthetic norm — his trademark use of long-legged and rail-thin dancers. In effect, Kawakubo destabilizes even the master of modern dance. —

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