Augmented by the evening's natural fade from light to darkness, the Offsite Dance Project, in three parts, immerses witnesses in the playful with Mika Arashiki and Mari Fukutome, the complex with Yukio Suzuki and the disorienting with Yoko Higashino. Part of PICA's Time-Based Art festival on Wednesday, the dance program by Japanese choreographers employs sites in Southeast Portland's industrial district for fresh remix of the surroundings.
The Olympic Mills Commerce Center plays host to Ho Ho-Do, during which Arashiki and Fukutome make their childlike presence known peering through the rooftop windows, flashing peace signs and extending legs into view. Then, emerging from an elevator to enter a clearing in the same crowded room as the audience, the playful duo enacts games of peek-a-boo and leapfrog to bubblegum beats. Obstructed views are part of the experience, but add to the surprise of the paper airplane flurry that the dancers launch lightheartedly overhead. They naturally direct the group outside to the next site with an exhilarating run into the early evening light.
Under the Morrison Bridge, the urban soundscape of traffic becomes amplified as Butoh-influenced Suzuki advances in cool street clothes beneath the overpass, wriggling through textured bound movements with a sunken chest and thrust pelvis. He walks with his back turned and flashing red lights frame his wiry body as a train chugs past for several minutes, eliciting the thrill of the unpredictable surroundings. During the climactic train passing at sunset, Suzuki crumples to the ground lying still, thus highlighting the dance of the city.
With nightfall, comes disorientation. The industrial building upon which Baby-Q's Higashino paces initially appears like an outdoor proscenium stage with the action on an elevated platform. In a sophisticated red mini-dress, Higashino responds to Yohei Saito's haunting black and white projections, which dwarf her, to dark electronic music by Wayne Horvitz. The immersive projected images ranging from scribbled sketches, backward clocks, static and startling angular bolts give way to dripping orange and red color at a gripping moment where Higashino, frontal, follows a dramatic strip of light forward off the platform and onto the pavement below. Her vulnerable slithering on the street ends with her lying still on her side. When the shapely projections lift, the nightmare strangely dissipates.
Julie Potter is a dance artist, writer, arts manager and yoga teacher based in San Francisco's Mission District.