Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

April 10, 2010

New Moves: Kenichi Ebina

Fine Arts Center, Amherst, MA
April 8, 2010
by Barbara Stroup

Kenichi Ebina thrilled a youthful and attentive audience at the UMass Fine Arts Center with a program of contemporary dance moves. He and his partner Takahiro Ueno presented a series of 12 titled vignettes that mixed street dance with silent narrative in a way that is accessible to anyone with a sense of humor and an appreciation of movement.

Each segment gave these agile dancers a vehicle for using their bodies to defy the restrictions of gravity and the familiar rules of, for instance, how to move one's shoulder. Especially riveting was the "RoboMatrix" number, in which Ebina was a mechanical toy, and "Two Thumbs Up," in which both dancers were clowns with seemingly rubber joints. The stories were enhanced by an effective use of an enormous video screen. Projected were film clips of color washes that reflected mood and emotion, and a stark white backdrop for Ebina's silhouette work. Props were few and electronic and classical music supported the vignettes without overpowering them.

A highlight for this audience was "A Tribute to Someone Special." Michael Jackson videos played on the screen while Ebina danced his version of the singer's moves, imitating Jackson but never slavishly, and keeping intact his own artistic identity.

Takahiro Ueno poignantly portrayed emotions from abject despair to boundless elation in "Rain," a story of love lost and love found. The performers ended the evening with a masterfully choreographed "Mirror" piece, managing precise reflections of each other's movements as if in a mirror, and then ending in a friendly liaison of individual recognition.

This intelligent and artful mix of hip-hop, poppin', locking' dance forms, martial arts movement, mime, magic and urban culture was fun from start to finish, even involving two front-row audience members when Ebina leapt from the stage to plant a kiss. The UMass Asian Arts and Culture Program has succeeded over the years to bring many exciting presentations, and is to be congratulated for including yet another innovative offering.