We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.
“Makes sense,” I thought to myself when I heard that Tzveta Kassabova and Naoko Maeshiba were sharing an evening at Dance Place. Their show, titled what we see, why we see, runs this weekend.
After all, the two artists have a lot in common. Strong, original movers who fully inhabit the space they’re in, both are foreign-born—Kassabova hails from Bulgaria, while Maeshiba is from Japan—and bring a seriousness to their movement exploration that feels, to me at least, almost un-American in its rigor.
But then I stepped back a little and thought about it. Kassabova, who was just named one of the “25 to watch” in 2012 by Dance magazine, is fully a dancer, one who’s clearly most at home with motion and momentum. Meanwhile Maeshiba, who teaches theater at Towson University, is Butoh-influenced and drama-oriented; her emphasis is on facial expressions, slowing down to pick up the underlying vibe of a room, subtle shifts in position that connote emotion. Both are performers, but their styles aren’t particularly similar.
Still, both women have made the visual elements of a performance—how it looks, the mood that the environment conveys—a focus. And that became the starting point for their collaboration, which began last summer.
“The first part of the process was about establishing the visual palette of the work,” remembered Kassabova. “We rarely had clashes there; we would watch together to know what the environment needs.”
You could say that was the easy part. It was in creating movement that their differences surfaced.
First of all, Maeshiba is used to working as a solo performer or director. “I don’t usually have a partner, and it’s much simpler to have one person’s thought,” she explained. “This was my first time to really be collaborating on this level, and for a while I was really feeling that I was playing in her backyard.”
Plus, Maeshiba said that she concentrates largely on the motivations behind her movement and the bigger ideas pushing it, while Kassabova tends to simply trust the movement.
“Tzveta keeps saying, ‘Faster, faster, faster,’ and I’m saying, ‘Why do you have to move so fast?’ For me, it’s a much slower progression,” said Maeshiba. “But I think it’s really [the question of] how to evoke sensations in the body that might be different.”
The result of this months-long dialogue-slash-collaboration is a single evening-length piece with several different sections. Be ready for some ambiguity: while the environment has been intentionally set by the artists, each audience member’s take on the performance will likely be a bit of an individual journey.
what we see, why we see is Saturday night at 8pm and Sunday at 4pm at Dance Place. $22.