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'Salaryman' (excerpt), 'Linked', 'Footsteps in the Snow'
by Carmel Morgan
January 23, 2011 -- Dance Place, Washington DC
Dance Place, which doubles as a dance studio and a small performance venue, features mainly
local dance, but it also brings a few gems from outside the DC area to light up the stage each
year. This year, New York based TAKE Dance, led by former Paul Taylor Dance Company
member Takehiro Ueyama, gave Washington residents a taste of contemporary dance that blends
western aesthetics with Japanese sensibilities. (Artistic director and choreographer Ueyama is
The program opened with an excerpt from “Salaryman,” an evening length work set to premiere
at Dance Theater Workshop in May 2011. The title “Salaryman” conjures images of Japanese
men in blue suits crammed into subway cars, and indeed, the piece seemed inspired by the
frenetic pace of businessmen and women commuting in crowded Tokyo. Yet the work seemed
strangely a couple decades off. Dancers paced back and forth with newspapers in front of their
faces. The last time I checked (I was in Tokyo in May 2009), no one was reading newspapers on
the subway. First, everyone is packed too tightly to actually read a bulky paper, and second, who
reads newspapers anymore anyway? People are instead glued to sleek little electronic devices
that deliver news and email messages.
At any rate, potential anachronism aside, the excerpt from “Salaryman” offered a vibrant, high
energy look at the frequently dehumanizing crush of making a living. Dancers madly typed
on invisible keyboards as strings from the music by Michael Gordon (ironically titled “Idle”)
whirred. The dancers also dove and slid into the floor with abandon. I’ve seen dozens of dances
depicting the frenzied daily lives of office workers, though. I longed for more originality than
the ubiquitous hurried jogs around the stage I continually see and saw here as well.
Jazz music by Pat Metheny accompanied the second work on the program, “Linked.” Nine
bodies flowed as easily as the easy listening tunes, whether in solos, pairs, or groups. Simply
attired in colorful tops and black or khaki bottoms, the dancers repeated happy loosey goosey
moves. The choreography was complex, yet simple, too. Much of the movement focused on
speed and surprises. Highlights included interesting hand gestures, little wiggles, and bouncy
flight. Most of all the dancers’ cool, go-for-broke attitudes made “Linked” enjoyable.
“Footsteps in the Snow” closed the program with mystery and, of course, (fake) snow. Ueyama
seems drawn to the familiar, as he set this quiet, lovely piece to the overused music of Arvo
Pärt (Spiegel im Spiegel) and had his dancers moving on a snow-filled stage, which I’ve also
seen more than once lately. Despite the commonly heard music and frequently used prop, and
even the unremarkable black and white costumes by Cheryl McCarron, “Footsteps in the Snow”
held its own. Ueyama himself danced divinely. My favorite moment featured dancers on the
cool white floor. Their arms slightly lifted floated down until their elbows gently bumped the
supposedly icy surface before eerily rising again. I also loved when dancers tugged at the back
of their shirts, at the neck, as if lifting themselves from their napes, and when a male dancer
suddenly collapsed, falling from standing, directly to the side, landing shoulder first with an
audible thud. There were many other evocative pictures created by Ueyama’s choreography.
Dancers tossed the textured fluff, or let it run through their hands like so much sand. Dashing
through the snow, they left trails. The synthetic snow rustled a bit, like the sound of leaves.
Often, dancers splayed on the ground, sometimes rolling and picking up ivory residue. A
somber, arresting mood permeated the piece. I don’t claim to know the meaning of “Footsteps in
the Snow,” but I suspect longing and shared heartbreak may have been part of the inspiration.
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