Beginning in mid-October, the Center for Contemporary Practice program at the KCAI Crossroads Gallery presents husband and wife artists Ryan MacDonald, a KCAI alum, and Bowdoin College-based choreographer and performer Aretha Aoki in a residency working with students. Their visit includes two performances of the interdisciplinary dance piece “Wind in the Pines,” inspired by Aoki’s family history during World War II, and featuring video and sound by MacDonald.
One theme is the life of Aoki’s grandfather, who served in the Japanese army in China. As she explained in a recent email, “The story about my grandfather traverses the past to present and not always in a linear way and juxtaposes quotidian details from his life — sometimes mundane, sometimes deeply disturbing, sometimes tender and even humorous.”
“Wind in the Pines” incorporates digital animation and sound as well as dance. “The work is contemplative,” Aoki says, “with lots of visually striking imagery and moments of full physicality and kinesthetic pleasure.”
An important touchstone of the performance is the classic Noh play “Matsukaze (Wind in the Pines),” a tale of love and heartbreak endured by two sisters, who fell in love with a courtier who died shortly after leaving them behind. The Noh play casts them as ghosts, a theme reiterated in Aoki and MacDonald’s production, which also takes cues from the setting of “Matsukaze”: a wintry beach, a forest of pine trees, a full moon. MacDonald conveys these elements through live and animated video projection as the sisters dance in mirrored unison on the stage.
“In a way,” Aoki says, “the piece is a meditation on holding the paradox of attachment and emptiness.”
Aretha Aoki & Ryan MacDonald will present “Wind in the Pines” Oct. 25 and 26 (times to be determined), as part of their residency at KCAI Crossroads Gallery, 1819 Grand Blvd., from Oct. 13 through 27. The gallery will feature an exhibit of their work from Nov. 1 through Dec. 7. Hours are noon to 5 p.m. Tuesday – Friday. For more information, 816. 914.5394 or www.kcai.edu/crossroads-gallery.