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Flash Review 2, 2-16:
Akaji Maro's Temputenshiki Mission
By Tara Zahra
Copyright 2001 Tara Zahra
ANN ARBOR, Michigan
-- Dairakudakan, seen at the Power Center here Wednesday, is not
just a dance company, it's a manifesto. Included in the program
is a description of the Japanese company's mission, by its founder
and director Akaji Maro. The company's technique, Temputenshiki-Style
Butoh, seeks to "reclaim, reassemble, and restore our ineffable,
innate, body language," which has been supposedly nearly snuffed
out by "modern conventional behavior, which is repressively pragmatic
and purely muscular."
"The Sea Dappled Horse,"
an evening-length work which was first performed in the U.S. at
the American Dance Festival in 1982, makes clear that confronting
our innate body language is no task for the faint-hearted. The bodies
of the dancers seemed constrained as much as freed, conveying a
message that what is innate is often painful as much as playful.
The magnificent opening scene seemed to be about raw violence and
power. This pain and submission, however, was communicated not through
graphic or acrobatic fight scenes, but rather through small, inward-looking
movements, individual contortions and expressions. Dancers painted
like pale statues with white faces seemed frozen in time, strung
together on a line attached at either end to men who were both bionic
and primitive. An unbearably loud horn blasted until the dancers
crawled, undulating, to a mass in the center of the stage, the tension
in the music producing something approximating fear in the audience,
building, perhaps, towards The Big Bang itself.
Primitivist and modernist
motifs intermingled throughout the performance, especially in the
eclectic music by Osamu Goto, ranging from howls and minimalist
drumbeats, to electric guitars and Western operatic music. What
one might object to, however, given the company's claim to restore
"innate" bodily gestures, is the notion that the "innate" can ever
be more than a given culture's imagination of the innate. This was
most troublesome in the gender roles projected throughout the performance.
It seems that what is "innate" to woman according to Maro included
having one's breast sucked by a grown man, shuffling feet and bowed
heads, and occasional bursts of gyrating hysteria. In one scene,
apparently designed for comic relief, a brainless throng of airheaded
women in ridiculous pink dresses with red bows on their heads chases
after a man on stilts with a giant gold penis, the quarry ultimately
mimicking anal sex with a cross-dressed man. Maybe it was supposed
to be subversive, maybe it was just supposed to shock, but maybe
it was just offensive.
Yet Dairakudakan is certainly
a different kind of theatrical experience, one that attempts to
provoke as well as shock, and to make broad, unapologetic statements
on the human condition, as in a finale which highlighted our ultimate
solitude in the world. Watching Dairakudan was a bit like reading
a difficult text, but the audience seemed to find it worth the effort,
and was willing to give the benefit of the doubt to that which they
may not have understood.
To read more about Dairakudakan,
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