Some advice if you’re planning to see the Japanese company Offsite Dance Project at TBA: wear heels, no matter your height, and clothes in which you can comfortably stand, sit or kneel on pavement. If you’d like to bring a Siberian Husky as your date, that’s allowed, provided he or she enjoys site-specific performance and doesn’t mind crowds. You’re also allowed to bring children, although they may pepper you with audible and pertinent questions about the performance, all beginning with “Why?”
About that: Why does Offsite dance outside traditional theaters? Possible answers include: because they can. Because it gives them a new field to play in and new stuff to play on, and brings new geometry and textures to the movement. Because changeable settings give the action a fresh feel and frame.
This show is set in industrial Southeast Portland and split into three parts, the first of which—“Ho Ho-Do”—takes place in a partially walled room at the Olympic Mills Commerce Center. It’s a whimsical duo with music to match: Mika Arashiki and Mari Fukutome dance their way through playful, childlike activities that include rolling across the floor into unwitting bystanders, perching themselves on banisters and cheerfully socking spectators in the arm or staging an interactive paper-airplane battle.
From there it’s on to the Morrison Bridge, under which Yukio Suzuki dances “Evanescere” to the sounds of traffic rushing overhead, the blaring whistle and chug of a passing train and shattering glass from the adjacent City Liquidators Bldg. 3. Suzuki performs disjointed movement with shades of pop-locking and butoh, all with the careful deliberation of a drunk trying to maintain his balance and dignity.
The evening concludes on a loading dock, where Yoko Higashino—looking like the heroine of an old silent film—alternates wonderfully precise mannequin-like movement with sudden collapses into a heap. Wayne Horvitz’s nightmarish carnival soundtrack plays as projections against the concrete walls set Higashino against flocks of birds and Japanese kanji tumbling from the sky.
You won’t see everything at this show—your vision may be obscured by a woman in higher heels than yours—but what you will see is worth the trip. A last bit of advice: Go.
SEE IT: Offsite Dance Project performs at PICA's Time-Based Art festival Friday-Saturday, Sept. 16-17 at Olympic Mills Commerce Center, 107 SE Washington St. $20 tickets at pica.org. Reservations required.
Heather Wisner is Willamette Week's dance critic.