Eiko and Koma

Eiko (female) and Koma (male) were law and political science students in Japan when, in 1971, they each joined the Tatsumi Hijikata company in Tokyo. Their initially experimental collaboration soon developed into an exclusive partnership. The following year, Eiko and Koma started working as independent artists in Tokyo. At the same time, they began to study with Kazuo Ohno, who along with Hijikata was the central figure in the Japanese avant-garde theatrical movement of the 1960s. Neither Eiko nor Koma have studied traditional Japanese dance or theater forms; they have preferred to choreograph and perform only their own works.

Their interest in Neue Tanz, the German modern dance movement which flourished alongside the Bauhaus movement in art and architecture, and their desire to explore nonverbal theater took them to Hanover, Germany in 1972. There they studied with Manja Chmiel, a disciple of Mary Wigman, the noted pioneer of Expressionism in dance. In 1973, they moved to Amsterdam and for the next two years toured extensively in Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Tunisia.

It was the late Lucas Hoving, a wonderful dancer who had toured with the early José Limón Dance Company, who suggested that they go to America. Their first American performance, White Dance, was sponsored by the Japan Society in May of 1976. Since then, they have presented their works at theaters, universities, museums, galleries and festivals world-wide, including numerous appearances at the American Dance Festival, five seasons at BAM's Next Wave Festival and a month-long "living" gallery installation at the Whitney Museum of American Art.

They have also worked in dance/video as another means of communication with their audiences. Their video work has been presented on "Alive from Off Center" (1989) and at the Dance on Camera Festival at Lincoln Center (2001). Their videotapes are available through Pentacle (E-mail info@eikoandkoma.org).

Eiko and Koma are known for presenting outdoor works – River (1995), The Caravan Project (1999), Offering (2002), Tree Song (2004) and Cambodian Stories Revisited (2007)-- as free events in public sites. By performing at dozens of sites for over 30,000 audience members, Eiko and Koma have shared their work with a more diverse public than is usually attainable in theaters. They wish to present their dance as a part of the landscape, an offering and a process rather than a product.

Though Eiko and Koma usually create their own movement, set, costumes and music/sound, they have also collaborated with a wonderful array of artists. Among them are Native American musician Robert Mirabal and painter Sandra Lerner (Land, 1991) singers Chanticleer ( Wind, 1993), composer Somei Sato and Kronos Quartet (River, 1997), a Praise Choir and Joseph Jennings (When Nights Were Dark, 2000), dancer Anna Halprin and cellist Joan Jeanrenaud ( Be With, 2001), clarinetist David Krakauer (Offering, 2002-03) and lighting designer David Ferri. Since 2004 Eiko and Koma have worked with the students and graduates of the Reyum Art School in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. In Cambodian Stories: An Offering of Painting and Dance, Eiko and Koma collaborated with nine young Cambodian painters-turned-performers. The work toured to eleven cities in the United States in the spring of 2006. In the summer of 2007 Charian and Peace, who played the key roles in Cambodian Stories, joined Eiko and Koma again to collaborate in presenting Cambodian Stories Revisited, in restaging of Eiko and Koma’s 1983 Grain and in creating a new piece Quartet. The latter two were commissioned by and premiered at the 2007 American Dance Festival. Eiko and Koma’s Mourning was a collaboration with noted avant-garde pianist Margaret Leng Tan and was commissioned for the 100th year anniversary of Japan Society. Eiko and Koma  worked again with Peace and Charian in 2008-2009 on Hunger, a Joyce Theater Twenty-fifth Anniversary Commission and Walker Art Center co-commission.

Eiko and Koma embarked, with major support from the Mellon Foundation, on a multi-faceted, multi-year Retrospective Project. The Retrospective was publicly inaugurated with an installation created for the Zhilka Gallery at Wesleyan University in Connecticut in November 2009. The centerpiece of the Retrospective is Raven, a collaboration with composer Robert Mirabal premiered at Danspace. Raven, and the larger Retrospective Project will tour widely across American over the next two years.

Eiko and Koma were named John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellows for 1984. They were awarded one of the first "Bessies" (the New York Dance and Performance Awards) in 1984 for Grain and Night Tide, and were honored again in 1990 for Passage. They were named MacArthur Fellows in June of 1996. This was the first time in the program’s history that the foundation awarded a so-called "genius" fellowship to be shared by collaborators. In 2004, they received the Samuel H. Scripps American Dance Festival Award for “lifetime contributions to the field of modern dance.” They received the 2006 Dance Magazine Award and were awarded one of the first fifty United States Artists fellowships. In 2007 and again in 2009, Eiko and Koma were awarded an ALASKA AIR Fellowship administrated by United States Artists with support from the Rasmuson Foundation.

Eiko and Koma have been permanent residents of the United States since 1976. They currently live in New York City, where they perform regularly and offer occasional Delicious Movement Workshops. Eiko and Koma are currently working on constructing a retrospective of their work. This project will include new commissions of a living installation and a stage work, reworking of older pieces, outdoor performances, photo exhibitions, video installations, showings of their media dances and documentaries, the publication of a retrospective catalog, workshops and other educational activities such as panel discussions and lectures.

Living Legacy | August 12 – 29, 2009

Retrospective Project

Over the past few years, MANCC's Living Legacy program has supported the research and development of Eiko and Koma’s work, beginning with a collaborative, cross-generational work with Cambodian visual artists, and continuing with a work bridging the past and present thematic underpinnings of Eiko and Koma’s legacy. The Retrospective honored their artistic legacy by recognizing their body of work, serving as a vehicle of exploration for examining the motifs they have shared with their audiences over time, and including performative and non-performative components.

Collaborator in Residence: Shoko Letton [filmmaker]

Living Legacy | September 3 – 15, 2008


Continuing to build upon their work with students from the Reyum Institute of Arts and Culture in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Eiko and Koma returned with Peace & Charion to develop Hunger, which draws upon two previous seminal works Grain and Rust. "At any age, we are all hungry not only for food but also for knowledge, intimacy, and life. In our wanting, we can be self-absorbed and sometimes even act unkindly to others. Dancing our hunger, however, we hope to not only address our desire to live but also mourn for those, dead or alive, whose hunger still haunts their spirits."

Hunger premiered at the Walker Arts Center on October 9, 2008.

Collaborators in Residence: Peace, Charion. Slideshow photos by Kathryn Noletto Felis.

Living Legacy | March 10 – 27, 2006

Cambodia Stories

During their first MANCC residency, Eiko & Koma worked on the final elements of Cambodia Stories, a multi-disciplinary cross-generational collaboration with your artists who study and work at the Reyum Institute of Arts and Culture in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The work explores the intersection of these lithe, youthful bodies, the Cambodian landscape and the voices past and present that inhabit it. Eiko & Koma rehearsed the work daily with audiences. Shoko Letton, MANCC's videographer in residence, helped edit The Making of Cambodia Stories, a beautiful documentary about the making of the work. Paintings were sold after the final work-in-progress showing to raise money for the Reyum Institute. 

Preview performances of Cambodia Stories at MANCC were made possible with support from the National Dance Project, a program of the New England Foundation for the Arts. 

Cambodia Stories premiered at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center at the University of Maryland, March 20, 2006.

The Making of Cambodia Stories is a full length documentary that follows Eiko & Koma as they work with their young Cambodian collaborators in Phnom Penh in 2005.

Collaborators in Residence: David Ferri [lighting designer], Thorn Chan, Vannak Houth, Sotha Kun, Sokchanthorn Ngin, Oeun Nimit, Sophon Phe, Chakreya So (Charion), Setpheap Sorn (Peace), Sok Than, Chivalry Yok [Reyum Painting Collective]

Featured Artist

Faye Driscoll

February 22 - 24
Carolina Performing
Arts, UNC Chapel Hill


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