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FIFTH OSAKA DANCE EXPERIENCE: DANCING NATURE AND BODY IN JAPAN.

FIFTH OSAKA DANCE EXPERIENCE: DANCING NATURE AND BODY IN JAPAN TORII HALL OSAKA, JAPAN JULY 29-AUG. 11, 1999

The Fifth Osaka Dance Experience took place in the Shinsaibashi area of Osaka, with its rocketlike buildings and otherworldly fountains that seem straight out of television's Star Trek.

While Japan prides itself on a sense of identification with nature, visitors to this country may have trouble finding it amid the concrete-reinforced rivers and coastlines, and the powerline-studded hills. Appropriately, the theme of this festival was "our body is in crisis ... the physicality of human beings and that of all other beings--animals, plants, and minerals-has to be reconsidered."

Atsushi Takenouchi's Jinen, in butoh style, is a Japanese form of rebellion of the body against the strictures of society. Closely following the meaning of the terms bu (burying with the feet) and toh (so as to be able to fly with the arms), Takenouchi seemed nearly immobilized by the mass of the earth under his feet that forced him into slow meditative motions. Still, he appeared ready to soar like a crane when his arms stretched upwards; yet he was like a rockbound Prometheus in supplication for his freedom.

Takenouchi, appearing as if he were a Native American warrior, with paint on his nose, high cheekbones, and a ponytail down to his hips, wore varied attire ranging from flowing robes to a loincloth. He underwent multiple transformations as he sought to capture the spirit of linen ("nature" in Japanese). He began with proud, almost flamencolike gestures; then he and a female dancer engaged in a spontaneous celebration of erotic love. Later, he took on the pained motions and grotesque grimaces of a severely challenged person or wounded animal. The piece ended with a wild explosion of energy, punctuated by hard backward falls and high leaps, returning thereby to the notion of butoh, a condition somewhere between heaven and earth.

Takenouchi's ninety-minute-long, improvised dance was in continuous conversation with the spellbinding rhythms and tunes by fourteen musicians, who equally improvised on bongos, tabla, didgeridoos, an Indian flute, a bamboo flute, a saxophone, a bouzouki, a lute, electric and acoustic guitars, and other assorted instruments. Takenouchi has performed Jinen five hundred times since 1996, when he set out to capture the spirits of nature as found in sacred places "such as ruins, temples, shrines, the sea, and the mountains." Jinen is an example of the idea that butoh is the search for "a very ancient form of art where ritual and artistic creation seem seamless. Where poetry was song, song was incantation, movement was dance."

Miyako Mori's Close Up Mika File #1: Midsummer of the Butterfly was in stark contrast to Takenouchi's Jinen. While Takenouchi emulated the improvisations of nature, Mori's dance was pure conscious art. Trained in ballet, modern, and contemporary dance, Marl demonstrated in seven distinct pieces the range of her movement vocabulary.

She began with a piece of great elegance expressed through fluidity and sensuality. This was followed by studies in motion displaying every aspect of articulation of her arms and legs. Although her stated focus in this performance was the resistance offered her by the floor, the ease with which she carried on these demanding exercises gave the impression that she was light as a feather.

In the next piece all the Bauhaus-like exploration was forgotten and one had the impression of watching a classical Greek sculpture come alive; the three pieces after that continued to exhibit Mori's exquisitely tuned talent, moving from vigorous gestures reminiscent of sport to ballet-inspired explorations to sharp-edged jazz dance. She ended her performance with a meditation on embodiment, her back very slowly vanishing into the darkness.

Having danced with a French choreographer for several years and collaboratively with Mark Haim of the Lisbon Dance Company in Portugal, Mori combines the ease and utter deliberateness of the Japanese tea ceremony with the refinement of good French wine and the emotional depth of Portuguese fado music.

There are outstanding dance concerts in Japan in butoh and other styles; I regret that my short stay there did not allow me to see more.
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Article Details
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Author:HEYD, THOMAS
Publication:Dance Magazine
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:9JAPA
Date:Nov 1, 1999
Words:684
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