DaBY Performing Arts Selection 2021
Hana Sakai The Dying Swan, The Dying Swan and Its Cause of Death
Japan’s leading ballet dancer Hana Sakai dancing the well-known choreography of Michael Fokine’s The Dying Swan. That in itself is too good to be true. The swan flying across the lake and landing on water. A dying life struggling and quietly ceasing to breathe. Witnessing a series of movements in just a few minutes, I sense that Sakai has completely embodied the physicality of the swan.
This time, however, it doesn’t end there. Immediately after finishing The Dying Swan and bowing to the applause, the cellist and the swan begin to perform The Dying Swan and Its Cause of Death. Sakai begins to dance as before, but this time, she talks on and on. What is the swan thinking in its last moments? Why on earth is it dying? And what is Sakai thinking about as she dances this choreography? In a single narrative, multiple perspectives come together to unravel the work of The Dying Swan from different registers of choreography and representation.
In this work directed by the standard-bearer of contemporary theater Toshiki Okada, time, which usually moves linearly with music, is stopped, stretched, and repeated many times. The dancer, who normally “becomes” the swan by dancing the choreography, is forced to “be” a swan that exists outside of the choreography – to speak and act as a swan – as she herself deconstructs time through her narration.
In this work, the intimate relationship between choreography and physical language is torn apart. Perhaps it is only then that we can truly appreciate the richness of the body.
Megumi Nakamura BLACKROOM, BLACKBIRD from solo
On a dimly lit stage. Dressed all in black, only Nakamura’s face and hands appear in white. She quietly steps into the light and starts to dance. Her dancing body seems to be guided by her right hand. Her right hand sometimes dances intricately as if she is writing in a notebook, and sometimes powerfully as if she is writing with a large brush. The body follows. According to the narration, this room is a space that listens to words that someone has thought of but were never said. The room was originally pure white but has turned black with the words written all over the walls. The dancer/storyteller who has devoted herself to these words, writing quietly at first and then struggling, eventually disintegrates there without being known by anyone.
According to a past interview of Nakamura, while working with Jiří Kylián on creative projects, she was asked to express her unspoken feelings with her hand movements. On the other hand, in another interview, she said that Kylián had taught her to express her choreography and movements with words. Through her work BLACKROOM, created and performed by Nakamura, who has continuously been moving between language and dance, expresses how her commitment to words is a solitary work that leads to death.
The following piece BLACKBIRD was created by Kylián for Nakamura after becoming independent from NDT. It is said to depict a dancer from their birth to maturity. The two works, each with a separate story, took on a new meaning when performed back-to-back. Lights go off after death is portrayed in the black room, but by the time the lights come back on, BLACKBIRD has already begun. The short two-minute solo at the beginning of the piece is the very scene where she is being separated from the umbilical cord and starts to walk on her own. She takes off the costume that has been hiding her arms. Now, her entire arms, from the shoulders down, are beautifully illuminated. The arms, which are vividly reborn like a phoenix, is dancing freely with ease, without anything to write about.
Ryu Suzuki When will we ever learn?
In a squarely lit space, resembling a wrestling ring. Two men and two women on stage. They enter the ring one after the other and dance their unique solos. Then, they dance in two. The first two dances a disturbing choreography that is reminiscent of violence and harassment. The next two dances like a man and a woman passionately in love. By the time the choreography comes full circle, the roles and positionalities of each of the four dancers are completely clear.
Then they take off their costumes and switch the choreography – in other words, their roles and positions. A man dances the choreography of the oppressed woman, and the two women dance the duet of a man and a woman in love. The choreography repeats over and over again, switching roles every time. In this repetition, we find what is interchangeable and what is not.
Interchangeability that lies as the premise of choreography. And the fundamental impossibility for us humans to be in the same position as others. When will we ever learn? cleverly combines these two elements and poses a question amidst this divided era. Even if the choreography is exactly the same, it represents different movements and meanings when danced by a different dancer. Violence and intimacy elicit different meanings depending on combination and order.
Dancing other people’s choreographies does not make us become the other. But even so, there must be traces another’s dancing body in a dancer. That’s how this piece makes me feel. This is a work that strangely convinces me and invites me to a place that cannot be reached via rational arguments.
Yoko Ando MOVING SHADOW
The program “Genealogy of Dance” attempts to uncover what the dance artists have inherited and how they have developed by placing a choreography that started off their career alongside their current work. However, the two young dancers who were performing with Yoko Ando, an authentic “Forsythe dancer,” do not seem to be dancers who have been trained in Forsythe’s methodologies. Nono Kinouchi, with her short blond hair, has a ballet background. Taisuke Yamaguchi, with his black hair and braided cornrows, is an old school-based street dancer. The combination of the three, including Ando in an afro, was quite a contrast in appearance and movement.
The heavy bass sound plays a luxurious beat in the background throughout. This musicality is neither from ballet nor from street dance. The music seems to lie in the intersection between these three bodies. The three dancers each perform their solos, while sometimes starting to dance in a unison as their solos overlap with one another. Kinouchi performs sharp and satisfying movements in a matter-of-fact manner. Yamaguchi’s solo starts out rebelliously with his street dance background; but gradually releases his street dance qualities and becomes more in tune with the surrounding space. While the two burst out their youthful energy and striking character, Ando maintains a distance between them. Not too close, not too far. She dances with them, doesn’t dance with them, and sometimes tries to stage “an undancable body.” She is like a clown, but also like a parent or a teacher. Her presence completes the picture that cannot stand alone with just the two young dancers. She is a glue of this marriage. And perhaps, this is one of the ways she facilitates inheritance.
Inheritance is not only about drilling one’s own movement system to a younger generation. What is genealogy? What was passed on to the next generation through this work? I couldn’t help but think about these questions when I saw Ando’s moving body.
Ryu Suzuki never thought it would
A solo work by choreographer Ryu Suzuki. In contrast to the other two works performed in the triple bill, which were clearly choreographed from a place of meaning-making, this work seems to have been born from a place of pure fetish towards objects. For example, the cold light of the numerous bare fluorescent lamps hanging from the ceiling. The bodysuit that glistens like enamel with the light. And above all, Suzuki’s own body.
The sequence of events gives us a thrill, as if we are watching a life growing and metamorphosing. Staying in a prone position, he slides his four limbs like a water strider. Turning into a supine position, he crawls across the floor like an elegant inchworm. When he finally stands up, he strenuously stays upright on his feet, repeating body waves and body isolations as if he is testing the possibilities of his own body. It isn’t until the piece reaches its climax, when he finally starts to walk on two legs. At first, it is provocatively slow, but with a thrill. He raises his knees high, trembling, and walks as if he is making sure of each step. Then, he eventually leaps, swiftly moves, and runs. The repetition of his vigorous steps, as well as the stillness that is created moments after a movement, are truly beautiful. He reminds me of a life that has hatched and has become complete.
Continuing to dance as a dancer may resemble the process of continuous rebirth and metamorphosis. To deconstruct one’s familiar body as a kind of object, and to taste it again as a fetish. When this process is performed as a piece of work, an unknown creature in the form of a human being manifests on stage.
Ryu Suzuki Proxy
One doll in stage left and one human body start to appear under a spotlight downstage. A human dancer repeats a short movement routine behind the motionless doll. Then, another doll emerges next to it. A second person standing behind it begins a solo. Before long, I witness six dolls and six human bodies on stage.
The patched dolls, which were made by a French artist, project a vibrant individuality and a strong presence. In contrast, the dancers are dressed all in black. The dolls are static, while the performers are eloquently dancing with their unique movement backgrounds. It is as if the two complement each other to form a single personality. The dolls themselves do not move, but the human bodies make them dance. The six dolls continue to move and change their positions on stage. Is this a group dance that uses objects? Or is it rather a group dance that serves for the objects?
The word “Proxy” in the title refers to a being that serves as a substitute for the real thing, a being that has been given the authority to act on behalf of the other. Reflecting this contemporary society, we use various proxies that stand in between our bodies and events. In this choreography, the exotic dolls are placed as personas or avatars to represent the dancer. But is this really the case? Who are the proxies here, the dolls or the humans? No, in fact, it may not matter which one it is. Faced with these two eloquent entities, the reason to make a distinction between the real with the proxy gradually gets lost.
Roma Hashimoto x Yae Yamamichi ENIGMA
Stage left, upstage; the gidayu performers sit on a pedestal covered in red cloth. Every corner of the empty stage is lit up. Stage right; a stepladder and ladder are randomly placed, creating a feeling of someone’s backyard. Three dancers quietly appear from stage right, entering the somewhat deserted stage. I understand in the moment that the performance will have three dancers who will dance to the narration and Japanese hayashi music. But something doesn’t seem right.
The three dancers, each of whom can dance in their own unique way, are somehow not trying to show off their techniques, but instead are dancing in a small kitschy unison. Then, to my surprise, the man who has been narrating as the tayu on the pedestal starts to find his way to the center of the stage, as if he is led by the three dancers. While being choreographed by the three dancing bodies, the tayu seems to be the one who is being set up as the protagonist. He reads the lines as he is asked, furiously preaches about fixing the world, performs a stage fight with the stepladder=monster controlled by the dancers, and starts a festival pretending to be a hero. Finally, even the hayashi performers join in to dance with their instruments in their hands.
An authority figure dancing on a portable shrine and the masterminds dancing eerily around him. The surrounding mass dances as they see everyone else dancing. I see here, the dancer is not the one who dances, but the one who makes the ones who do not dance to dance. Their presence is too reserved to be named as a main dancer, but too strong to be called a back-up dancer, as they steer the story with their uncanny presence. Thanks to the “atmosphere” created by these women, a completely different landscape emerges on the stage.