Pictured above: Yumiko Yoshioka in 100 Light Years of Solitude/Photo: Edgar Gutierrez Calvillo
Editor’s Note: This is an expression in response to 100 Light Years of Solitude in a poetic form by Danielle Levsky; it is followed by information about the work and process.
On Wednesday, April 25, Yumiko Yoshioka led the direction, choreography and dance of the one-night only Chicago performance 100 Light Years of Solitude, which follows Yoshioka’s solo show Before the Dawn. 100 Light Years of Solitude is the second part of her trilogy From 1 to 100.
Words and air rustling sounds
A simple set – black and
Dark, feces-like figure.
Alien sounds, or a failed transmission.
Clicking of the tongue.
The poop alters its shape.
Light shines on the poop, then disappears.
The unknown of the darkness.
Lights again, uncovering and
Reflecting the black, feces material.
The shape rolls down the path.
The shape shifts to the sound.
Drums play and affected the poop.
A small peep/sound from the
Like the egg of a cockroach.
A small segment of the egg opens up.
Are those hands?
No, that’s not a hand.
It’s a tube. A tail.
An esophagus muscle.
Is that a snout?
Is the mound itself a creature,
Like the cousin of a penguin?
Or does the mound transform?
A squeak. A rip.
Oh no! Squeak.
Lights go up.
Oy! Oh. Agh.
Then a hand appears.
A hand attached to… a foot.
A covering a foot.
Is it waving hello?
It moves itself up.
Where does this creature live?
The entirety of the leg, attached to the foot, emerges.
The shape and form lifts up and on.
One leg, one foot.
Hop hop hop.
Plants firmly on the round.
The second foot comes out and lands on the ground.
Both feet are attached to special moldings.
Is the creature learning how to walk?
Sometimes it is in rhythm with the sound, the music.
Tap, tap. Plie.
Walk in the rain. Or.
A hand peeks out from the top.
Scratches the legs.
Foot scratches foot.
The hand points in different directions.
A light on the back of the wall: periwinkle blue.
A head appears and peeks out.
On tiptoes, the creature walks.
Creature grimaces (you can see the opening of a mouth
shadowed in the no-face).
Creature folds into itself
and goes back into the shape, into the feces, into the shell.
Creature hides face and feet.
A light shines on the creature.
A rock once more. Or a cocoon, maybe. Not feces.
Creature scratches at the floor with their hand.
Rips off the cocoon over itself.
There is a backside. A butt. The feet, the arms.
Creature cannot stand up.
Creature’s body is almost all in form.
Creature cannot stand without the black cocoon.
Creatures lies down on top of the cocoon, with its tail in full view, wrapped around them.
Creature crawls on all fours with forearms.
Head down, head up, one foot up.
Creature lifts and moves by forearms.
Fall over, stagger. Lift left arm and left leg. Lift the right leg, a little.
Creature flies, swims, collapses, gets up.
Creature moves their tale aside.
Kick, kick, fall, drag self by arms.
Launch up by right foot, then left.
The tail unhinges, full display.
A disattached spinal column.
Creature moves arms like wings.
Pull up, draw close to the ground.
Looks around. Grimaces.
Lifts up by arms
getting lighter and brighter in the room.
Able to use knees and juts out bottom of feet and arms.
Progression of a crawl.
It gets darker. Light follows them.
Fully crawling, creature reaches the dirt pile.
They are curious. They inch towards it.
Face down into the mud pile,
They look up, mouth in an O-shape, silent shrieking.
Creature slaps the water.
Creature is frightened, repulsed or confused at the reaction of water.
They rub the water on themselves,
Put water on their face.
Creature sneezes, sloughs. Slops up the water.
Opens mouth and goes down and in again.
Music starts. Legs go out one by one.
Squatting and enjoying the music, the rhythm.
Touches hands to the floor.
Hops to the right of the mud pile.
Drums start to play.
Creature dances from left to right.
Dance, hop, squat.
Squat, jump up.
Moves tail. Walks on all fours.
Observes reflection in shut off light on the side of the stage.
Taps light. It turns on.
Retreats back to the cocoon.
Cradles into cocoon, into tail.
Tail between legs. Flaps arms.
Dance begins again
Moving and rotating the arms.
Music reminiscent of a video game plays.
Creature moves arms above the head.
Creature grabs skull with both hands opposing.
Stands and grimaces.
Tail is between legs.
Discovers tail and puts it towards their mouth.
Lifts up, drops tail in water.
Shakes tail into water then flings it around.
As if they do not know what to do with the tail.
Creatures opens mouth.
Creature slaps tail on themselves.
Creature holds tail up like they are going to put tail in mouth.
They hold tail in mouth as if it as a saxophone.
Creature whips legs around.
Left right left right.
Stands still, straight, hands at side.
Marches forward with tail in mouth.
Slaps thighs, holds tail in mouth.
Hold self, lifts up left and right foot.
Returns to cocoon in left upstage corner. Scrunches into it. Covers head.
Circles tail around the body.
Throws feet coverings away. Far.
Gets on knees to search for feet coverings.
Puts feet coverings in mouth.
Eats/chews feet coverings while on their knees.
Sloughs. Goes to mud pile.
Grabs face and launches it into water.
Uses hands to wash face aggressively.
Gasps for air. Frightened?
Removes mask that was on face.
Calls out, shrieks in terror/delight.
Just shrieks. Removes rest of mask.
Smiles. Reveals black ponytail.
Rips off tail.
Circulates it around them. Exclaims and perches.
Looks emphatically at the blue light growing brighter behind them.
Hard periwinkle. Tosses tail on the ground.
Tousles tail back and forth. Creature tosses tail above them.
Between their legs.
Holds tail up in front.
Creature looks over the tail. Looks eager.
Creature chokes self with tail. Flails around.
Puts tail’s short end into their mouth.
Creature empathetically makes a sound and drags the tail by their mouth.
Creature collapses on the ground next to the cocoon.
Squirms. Tries to go back inside the cocoon.
Brings tail back in with them.
Music gets louder. Static and ocean.
Frequency. Light dims. One light shines on the cocoon.
Blue light overhead. Blue light above.
Creature emerges from cocoon.
Creature lovingly touches cocoon.
Crawls into cocoon. Pats cocoon.
Water sounds emerge.
Creature drifts and floats through the blue space,
moves limbs fluidly, as if in water.
Music plays through a synthesizer.
Creature moves arms, dances up to mud pile.
Moves head and hair around.
Looks into the water within the mud pile.
Creature uses their hands to watch their face furiously. Three times.
Creature offers water in front of them,
maybe offers water to the audience.
Creature looks distraught.
Creature stands up and a red light shines into the water.
Creature crouches into the water. Sits in it.
Creature goes up and down.
Creature gives special shrills. Creature is happy.
Creatures makes squeaks.
Stands up, left hand spread out, right hand pointed up.
Turns around. Hands twirling.
Yoshioka was inspired by Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude; she sought to explore a state of solitude for a creature born on a planet 100 light years away from Earth. The creature realizes that its destiny is to exist in solitude, as it is the only one of its species on the planet.
The in-sync and aptly matching music composition by Tomas Tello and Zam Johnson accompanied the precise and artful light/technical direction by Spiros Paterakis. Pablo Alarcon’s costume design developed an interplanetary creature on stage, with the manifestation of this fantasy completed by Yoshioka’s careful, determined craft in developing every stage of the creature’s life in a marriage of patience and anticipation.
Yoshioka was a member of the first Japanese women’s Butoh dance company ARIADONE. She has performed Butoh across Asia, Europe, Oceania and North/South America. She also founded the art-formation group TEN PEN CHii art labor with visual artist JoaXhim Manger and one of the music composers for 100 Light Years of Solitude Johnson and serves as the art director of eX…it!, a dance and Butoh exchange research project.
Yumiko’s interests lie in the interactivity of dance, space and visual art. She focuses on exploring the zones between body works and performing arts.
“While I’m dancing, I don’t feel my age,” Yoshioka said after the performance.
On stage, the creature did seem entirely ageless. When asked if she intended for an audience member to participate with the creature when they offered the water, Yoshioka said that this was not the intention of the act.
“It’s about loneliness and solitude,” Yoshioka said. “It’s about solitude and offering.”
I mentioned to her that I thought about approaching the creature’s offering for water. She smiled; this had not yet happened in any of her performances of this piece.
Yumiko Yoshioka’s one-night only Chicago piece was performed on Wednesday, April 25 as a part of the Bridge Dance Festival at Links Hall 3111 North Western Avenue, with support coming from Butoh Chicago and Sara Zalek.
Danielle Levsky (she/her/hers) is the Theater Editor of Scapi Magazine. She is a feminist, Jew, poet, essayist, performance artist, and instructional designer. In addition to her work at Scapi, she has covered community news, arts reviews, lifestyle editorials, and cultural events for several publications. Between February 2018-2019, she completed a fellowship where she wrote a collection of community-engaged essays about her identity and heritage. She also writes typewriter poems on demand with Poems While You Wait. Follow her on her poetry Instagram to read some works in progress.