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Flash Flashback, 12-1: Waking Dreams
Tanaka Takes Butoh to the Roof

By Chris Dohse
Copyright 2000, 2006 Chris Dohse

(The Dance Insider has been revisiting its Archive. This Flash was first posted on July 14, 2000.)

I like the world when it gets small. Makes me think I'm doing something right. Min Tanaka comes to New York each year and suspends time for me. I watch the way he spins corporeal emotion (one way to describe it), and the hamster wheel in my head shrinky-dinks.

While I was in queue for "Dreaming Trees -- Flying in Nexus" last Sunday at P.S. 1 (what a fine opportunity the day was for hipster-hobnobbery and observation thereof), a voice behind shouted, "Are you in line for something?" Another voice answered, "Japanese Vaudeville." Hmmm. A curious description of Tanaka's style. He is usually accused of working within the form and lineage of Ankoku Butoh, although some claim there's no such thing, that the "dance of darkness" only existed in the post-Hiroshima moment of its genesis. I've certainly never considered Tanaka's difficult, perplexing vision entertaining. I've classified his performances as thought processes made flesh, moving meditations that gaze unflinchingly at the terrifying, the despairing and the absurd.

In Part One of "Dreaming Trees," Tanaka wore band-aids on his face and fingers and any old dressing gown. He and his cast, (Shiho Ishihara, Dana Iovacchini, Jorge Schutze and Zack Fuller), perambulated the roof's surface of stones looking a little injured, a little deranged. All of them damaged in some way, unwelcome guests at a picnic gone dangerously awry. They moved as if their bones were filled with perfume. Were they errant, tarnished leaf shapes, breezeblown, or stormkill clogging a rain spout?

For Part Two (seen yesterday and playing again today and tomorrow at 4 PM), the trees edging the playing area were weighted more heavily with bricks. A necessity of structure or metaphor? The wind made a greater intrusion, or inclusion, yesterday, complicating the dancers' gauzes, blowing everything crookedy, rearranging the misaligned.

Something troubled me though, something that felt like a misunderstanding between the experience the dancers were having, so apparently profound, and the one I was having, which didn't really rise to the occasion. Made me wonder why do this in front of people? Why allow us to witness such interiority? Can awareness be communicated? If so, would it change everything?


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