featured photo
The Kitchen
Brought to you by
Body Wrappers;
New York Flash Review Sponsor
the New York manufacturer of fine dance apparel for women and girls. Click here to see a sample of our products and a list of web sites for purchasing.
With Body Wrappers it's always
performance at its best.

Go back to Flash Reviews
Go Home

The Futuristic, the Freaky, the Glittering
Of Nipples and Other New Nipponese Dances

By Alissa Cardone
Copyright 2004 Alissa Cardone

New! Sponsor a Flash!

NEW YORK -- An impressive range of work met an almost sold-out audience Friday, January 10 at the Japan Society, to open the seventh annual Showcase of Japanese Contemporary Dance. Work of dramatically different character showed contemporary dance from Japan that thrives in diverse manifestations beyond its more celebrated and controversial Butoh form. The spectrum of work addressed both intimate and collective concerns in five unique movement styles.

She may be exploring the absurdities of daily life in her work, but Un Yamada's choreography is far from mundane. Her opening solo "Lock" unfolded as a witty study of absolute boredom danced by neurotic hands on a small table. In "sky/lark, " Yamada appeared to channel the futuristic cyber-soul of Tokyo as well as its speed and intricacy in movements perfectly timed to a soundscore by Tomomi Adachi. Lithe muscular arms carved dense invisible schematics in the air, inscribing the inner workings of some imaginary uber-machine. The choreography seemed to be framed by limitations, as when Yamada spun, lunged and pivoted repeatedly while keeping her arms locked in an upheld circle with fists pressed together, before freezing for a long and engaging stillness.

The radically different sense of Project Fukuru's work made me feel like I was in an episode of "The Twilight Zone." "Ozma," a highly ritualistic multi-media piece, featured tiny mechanical dolls that director Ishikawa Fukurow, a kinetic artist and electrical engineer, incorporates into his stage work in order, as he explains in a program note, to "materialize his inner-self." Highly psychological, this epic chilled me -- it wasn't just the delicately nightmarish tiny robot that dragged a table across the stage or marched flat on its back while a dancer read from a book, but the air of some ancient danger that perfumed the darkly lit stage when the performer exhibited a surprising and impressive round of Butoh-enhanced b-boy windmill, worms, and back flips.

Odd unshapely movements were coolly danced by Shigehiro Ide's Idevian Crew, who were dressed in a palette of Western-style thrift fashion circa 1970, except one central dancer wearing a kimono. In "Unreasonable Mme Belle," tensions played out between traditional and imported Western influence, represented in the dance through various phrases constructed so that someone would always be out of synch. The strongest group choreography in the showcase, it seems that Shigehiro Ide's work aims to reveal the irony in familiar human experience and invites the audience to not just recognize it collectively, but take part in it. In one poignant scene, the dancer in kimono invited the audience to clap in time with another dancer who performed sit-ups until exhausted, whereupon she collapsed.

The only thud in an evening of echoes was Toru Shimazaki's "Dance Barbizon," aptly titled considering its company of well-coiffed performers. The energetic, highly committed and technically precise core of dancers could not make up for relentless movement phrases that repeated so many times they became numbing. A lack of variation in timing, use of space and an elusive sense of drama also made the piece seem too long, as I struggled to stay engaged with its blue sea-creaturely atmosphere and 1980s-style costumes. Shimazaki's "River" was the most compliant work of the evening, included most likely to represent a work which owed itself to a more balletic lineage.

Works of such diverse sensibilities do each other justice by being viewed together. The successful choreographies were examples of clear artistic vision in which the dance-making was not subservient to style, but style was just a means to the end of conveying an impassioned idea. The choreographers offered a unique quality which did not stray from its core except to reveal the range of lights and darks that can exist within a single state, such as boredom (for Yamada), metaphysical contemplation (for Fukurow) or the irony in every day life (for Idevian Crew). Even in the deepest moments, the pieces that drew me into timeless trance and that made me think of life and death and humanity in its most fragile or tragic circumstance were those that maintained lightness and a sense of humor.

The one piece that was able to engage without levity was Mika Kurosawa's "Diana/Actaion for Pierre Klossowski." Kurusawa's striking costume, designed by Kyoko Domoto, was alive on the body of a possessed spirit in this solo, which premiered in 2003 at Judson Church. Ropes of decadent jewels wrapped Kurusawa's neck and a single plastic breast with a gorgeous ruby red gem on its gleaming nipple was tied across her body like a shield over a tattered dress, as she skirted and half-Charlestoned in between hard falls, landing face down flat. White powder, which precipitated from her wildly teased out tresses, clouded the air as the thickly inhabited atmosphere revealed the last dance of a once bodacious burlesque star. Kurusawa's work operated in a process of calculated revealing similar to strip-tease, in which she continuously added new movements to illuminate her persona and then used her highly practiced sense of improvisation to spontaneously cook them.

Whenever I see showcases, I always wonder about the work that I'm not seeing, the work that didn't make the curatorial cut. Although I was stimulated by this program, it occurred to me that none of the works selected stretched too far outside of my notion of what "contemporary" could be. So I want to know: Who is the choreographer whose work is lying in wait, tossed aside for the moment in a pile of declined proposals for being too radical or too risky for 2004? Who didn't make the cut?

Go back to Flash Reviews
Go Home