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Flash Review 3, 10-21: Gray Matter
It's Not Easy Being in Teshigawara's "Green" (especially for the Rabbits)

By Chloe Smethurst
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 artifice.

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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