In the new Nimoy Theater at UCLA, the audience is lively. Perhaps you can feel it, too — the Los Angeles dance community is bustling with work to share and moral support to lend — possibly the only two resources we have in spades. As the crowd settled in on Saturday night, Shinichi Iova-Koga and Dana Iova-Koga of inkBoat took the stage, unassuming, beginning their tasks as though they were sweeping the stage for tone.
These Are the Ones We Fell Among, a collaboration between inkBoat and choreographer, writer, and director Ann Carlson, grieved the loss of life on our planet, substituting the urgency around climate emergency for a Seussian rhythm. The program notes reference Samuel Beckett too; maybe a nod to the everything and nothing occurring within the hour, as the performers negotiate a grand dual monologue.
The combination of these influences created an affect very easy to mistake for amateur theater, though what it really aimed to achieve was absurdism. But these artists are not amateurs. Each of their records indicates rigorous multidisciplinary work, influences vast and diverse. Though the evening was more movement-studded than movement-based, small glimmers of their curiosity peeked through. In the prologue, Shinichi balanced all fours on an exercise ball; Dana imbued a stuttering sequence with deep emotion. The movement motifs, referencing endangered mammals, were slightly obvious, but gave us something to cling onto. Whether the dated viral dab making its way into the choreography was oblivious or not, it was a little funny each time.
Slow and careful movement bookended the marathon of text, for which the artists maintained an impressive pace. The monologue was exhaustive and also full of gibberish, which I found a reasonable statement to make on humans’ empty concern for crisis. As an audience member, though, it was pretty difficult to chew on for a full hour. Behind them, music by Shahzad Ismaily and Carla Kihlstedt (with an additional contribution from Stellwagen Symphonette) swept on.
A few bright spots disrupted the even pace: the pair wrestled as endangered rhinos for a moment and fell into a hug, the sounds of a cheering crowd roaring over them. Not necessarily original, but tender just the same, which is sometimes better. And onstage deck hands Evan Drane, Eric Erickson, and Billy Foster were excellently stoic, foils for the leading duo in their most frantic moments. One particular scene with a dolphin on a stick was particularly joy-inducing, a shining piece of Carlson’s set and costume concept as fabricated by Amy Rathbone.
Knowing the artists’ expertise, I felt the evening missed opportunities for movement, especially in service of a more dynamic arc. The creative team’s underlying skill was undeniable, but the work just didn’t resonate for me, whether it was lacking insight, imagery, structure. That said, it was heartening to see dance artists show up for dance in a newly reimagined theater — hopefully, an indication of community to come.
To learn more about inkBoat, please visit their website.
To learn more about the UCLA Nimoy Theater, please visit their website.
This review was edited on 10/23/23 to correct the name of the photographer.
Written by Celine Kiner for LA Dance Chronicle.
Featured image: Shinichi Iova-Koga and Dana Iova-Koga of dance and theater company inkBoat performing These Are the Ones We Fell Among – Photo by Jason Williams