When someone says the word “mime” most people think of bad street performers in Central Park. Luckily, Yass Hakoshima, the accomplished mime artist whose “Yass Hakoshima Movement Theater” performed “Arguments” last night at the Westminster Arts Center, proves that mime can still be a transcendent art form.
After a dedication to the people of Japan (where Hakoshima was born and educated), the Claring Chamber Players’ violinist Mitsuru Tsubota and violist Jessica Troy started the performance with a lively, skittering prelude called “Madrigals.” The piece would seem to echo the score of the film “Psycho” to a movie buff with a discerning ear. When the song ended, Hakoshima emerged from the hall to the left of the stage and plopped himself down in a chair between two theater-goers. He then sprang to life and took the stage.
The first act was entitled “Marionette.” Hakoshima, who was quoted in the playbill saying, “Whether we are aware of it or not, all of us are in some way controlled or driven by unseen power," portrayed these forces in three ways. First, a woman (dancer Dana Balsamo) tried to coax Hakoshima to put on an outfit. A dark figure (Christopher Byrnes) then threatened him to comply. Finally, Hakoshima gave in and donned the colorful puppet clothes only to lose his autonomy completely, being pulled up and down by unseen strings. He soon began struggling against his strings and ultimately broke free to exclaim “I made it!”
After a second musical interlude lead by Tsubota and Violinist Mayuki Fukuhara, Hakoshima returned to perform “Balloon” solo. This piece was more playful but less challenging than the first. Still, his skill at showing the changing weight of his red balloon was impressive.
The final routine, “Black Angel,” began with Balsamo returning as a figure wearing a red sash. She was at first at peace and then, when the music turned dissonant, thrown into violent shocks. Twisting and writhing on stage she easily had the most arresting turn of the night. In the end of her half, she was dragged off into the shadows. Her mask and a red-gloved hand then arose from center stage and enacted the struggle between life and death as the hand attempted to save the face.
The show, far more dynamic than the “trapped-in-a-box” acts that mime is typically associated with, had just the right level of complexity and accessibility to appeal to a wide audience. Celebrating his 40th anniversary with “Yass Hakoshima Movement Theater” this year, Hakoshima is still a vibrant performer with expansive creativity.
Hakoshima's powerful performance had a resounding effect on several audience members.
“He’s just the most phenomenal mime performer that, in my limited experience, that I ever have had the privilege of seeing," audience member Sally Reinhardt raved. "He’s extraordinary.”
Audience member Deborah Tirico echoed Reinhardt's sentiments, saying Hakoshima is at the top of his game.
“I loved it. I don’t think there’s anything better than live music and creative expression of dance and mime," Tirico said.
For more information, visit www.yasshakoshima.com.