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Review 3, 10-21: Gray Matter
It's Not Easy Being in Teshigawara's "Green" (especially for the Rabbits)
Copyright 2005 Chloe Smethurst
MELBOURNE -- "Green,"
choreographed by Saburo Teshigawara and performed by his company,
Karas, at the Victorian Arts Centre October 6, is one of the acts
headlining this year's Melbourne International Arts Festival. This
seems to be due to the publicity potential of including live animals
in a contemporary dance work, but, as with many other such stunts,
it doesn't necessarily make for a stimulating experience.
With this work, it seems
that Teshigawara is aiming at subversion, making choices that go
against logic, to create a performance that is confusing and strange,
a kaleidoscope of colliding images.
"Green" is full of contrasts
and contradictions, with many opposing forces running throughout.
The luminous green carpet covering the stage contrasts with the
simple black and white of the cows, goats and human costumes to
present the core contradiction of the work, that of nature against
The first act is almost
brutal, not only for the audience, but also for the group of plump
white rabbits penned in at the front of the stage. The live sound,
produced by the UK band Sand, is extremely loud and heavy, punctuated
by flashing lights not dissimilar to those at a rock concert. The
bunnies were not impressed, flattening their ears and hiding in
the far corners of the stage.
Meanwhile, a lone dancer
stands on stage, badly miming a harsh voice. Eventually the ensemble
enters, performing in unison a repetitive, meditatively slow sequence
of movements resembling walking on the spot. The repetition is sustained
to the point of saturation, but just as it seems that something
dramatic or profound must happen, the dancers break the mood by
bursting into an unrelated, skittering dance that fritters away
the previously focused energy.
A kooky tranquility
pervades the second act, which features an opera singer in a sumo
wrestling outfit, a parade of quacking ducks and a guitar solo performed
for a cow. Thrown in amongst it all are some rather ineffectual
character skits, which seem to have no purpose other than to highlight
the random nature of the work.
Some interesting movement
motifs are developed, particularly a samurai-like solo and a delicate,
elegant duet performed by Teshigawara himself, with Bruno Pere.
The effective placement of performers and animals on stage sets
up striking images, but again, as soon as a satisfying moment is
reached, the magic is broken as another scene interrupts.
The final solo, set
to Mozart, is long and rather anti-climactic. Rihoko Sato begins
with a pattern of slow arm reaches, followed by a ripple through
the body, then a shift in her deeply bent legs, to repeat the undulating
pattern again in a different mutation. This adagio movement is followed
by a sharper sequence featuring small arm and hand gestures performed
with tension. These two themes are then intertwined in a third movement,
which swings from viscous calm to metallic sharpness, yet the vocabulary
is too limited to be effective.
As an experiment, "Green"
doesn't have enough chaos to be completely random, nor enough complexity
to be a satisfying composition. And while the rabbits are cute,
trying to conscript them into dance, for no reason but to demonstrate
the randomness of nature, is not.
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