Treaders in the Snow

      Washington Square

      United Methodist Church

      August 22,2003


review by Lori Ortiz


On this hottest day of summer the cool fjords of Norway refresh in the Treaders performance of "Seraphita." In the sanctuary of the beautiful church, the 45-minute dance provides quiet respite from the brutal dog days of city summer heat. The icebergs are evoked with cool, stony, minimal movement. The original music by Yashuro Kato, also spare, begins with a quiet measured drumbeat. A crackling track with sweet vocals mesmerizes like white noise and is somehow dansant; the sound and steps merge through the dancer's musicality. Megumi Onishi, as Minna enters with a small tinkling bell. In the story, Minna, a country girl, falls in love with Seraphitus, a young but wizened neighbor who at first appears inanimate in designer Courtney Logan and Rika's combination kimono/shroud. Wilfred, danced en travesti by choreographer Naeko Shikamo, is also in love with Seraphita. Seraphitus, a.k.a. Seraphita, takes on male, and more intuitive female traits, winning the worship of both companions. Dancing at the two ends of the long (16 foot) sleeves of her costume, Shikamo and Onishi pine for the elusive and unattainable figure. They spiral toward her, only to be cast away.




Actually, Seraphita, played by Mana Hashimoto, is only enamored of God. Always looking heavenward, this spiritual and hermetic role seems made for the dancer, 5 years blind. In her stony absorption, she is resigned but also kind. Seraphita has suffered from an unspecified illness that advanced with the effort of being Seraphita; the ailment also perhaps necessitated a hermetic existence. Her light burns dim. She lies in the small mound of her black cloak. Then disrobed by her two friends pulling on the sleeves, she joins the earthly creatures for a time in white. Onishi tempts, spinning the curved lines of the material and female world, but Seraphita, lifted upward by her own extended arm, is in seeming correspondence with the heavens.




Low toiling movements seem divinely derived, and/or aquired from Graham training. Eiko of the performance pair Eiko and Koma, identified their own low-to-the-ground movements as possible vestiges of village rice patty farming. With faster circular arm swings the tempo picks up and movements become more forceful. Hashimoto sets the rhythmic and repeating gestures in motion from her singular world. Finally Onishi and Shikano lie in exhaustion. At the sight of Seraphita 's assumption, they sit up and look on together. The troupe takes on Balzac's picturesque cult novella. His Norwegian villagers pore over volumes of Swedenborg's theosophy during a long icy winter. Through the tale, Balzac may have sought respite from Parisian life. Similarly, the Japanese-American Treaders, in this 2001 dance, aim for nothing less than the spiritual healing of war torn cities.