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      Shoku by Batik in 8th Annual Japanese Contemporary Dance Showcase
      "Shoku" by Batik
    Quality Imports

    A program of outstanding talent and artistry at Japan Society's 8th Annual Japanese Contemporary Dance Showcase.


    Five dances, each by a different choreographer working in Japan, evince the superior artistry happening in Japanese dance. With virtually no sets they do more with less. Lighting is used innovatively and costumes are expressive or refreshingly minimal. High caliber technique ranges from the self-taught to ballet and Laban training. In the case of Noism05, and Kaiji Moriyama, pure movement is the spectacle and the message. The tradition of Japanese theater is an everpresent mainstay in all of the works.

    Produced by: Mayumi Nagatoshi.
    Includes individual dances: "Shoku" by Batik; "Katana" by Kaiji Moriyama; "Bowl of Summer" by Sennichimae; "Uta-Kata" by Monochrome Circus; "Lost Title" by Noism05.
    Lighting design by: Hiroyuki Sugiura.
    Japan Society
    333 E. 47 St.
    Jan. 7-8, 2005

    Moriyama developed his 'unique performance style' while dancing with experimental Japanese choreographers. In "Katana" (Sword) Moriyama begins in a stationary position with his arms positioned to suggest swift, winged flight. With blond hair and simple muslin loin wrap, he is like a feathery creature in what is virtually a duet with a beam of light. Go Taneda's airy sound is also inseparable: wind, soft bells, or the whooshing crescendo of airplane take-off. Taneda's cackling rain accentuates the dancer's sinuous movement. He opens his mouth as if to catch the drops. Even his gasps are glorious. He is statuesque on his elbows and shows little effort. Standing centerstage, he is doubled over backwards, looking at us upside down. He appears levitated with only his upper body lit — a modern phoenix transcends.

    Moriyama's performance follows Batik's "Shoku" (Touch), a jolting confrontation with areas puritanical Americans don't normally touch in public. But Ikuyo Kuroda and four female dancers do touch that 'secret place' on stage — to the driving beat of an apt musical sequence and the performers own (sometimes orgasmic) screaming. Wild movement is sometimes just wild. But Ikuyo Kuroda's long hair is both shield and battering ground for Yukiko Doi's abusive slaps. Kuroda's passivity is equally dramatic and exceptional. She laughs and entertains following the abuse and then breaks into her own wild solo which takes on a wonderfully palliative rhythm.

      Sennichimae and especially Batik, though critical, still appeal eloquently to a universal humanity.
    In a coup, the lights are perfectly aimed at microphones in stands at the edge of the stage. The dancers use them to stroke their bodies. Red dresses are pulled up over the head to reveal frilly underwear. We see only the body or the face and without both, the potentially sexy is uncannily cold. From Kuroda lying centerstage, a pair of eerily lit legs rise like a tombstone.

    "A bowl of Summer" provides a bit of comic relief and cool. Though it has its rebel undercurrent. The 'butoh-based' movement is slower and this group is in no rush to please. Suzume in a slow topless walk upstage, balances a large blue paper lantern on her shoulders. She turns to smile at us through red glaring mouth and eyes. The five are playful, even confectionary at the beginning in blue satiny dresses with a flower pinned in their matted manes. But later they wear more sultry full bloomers and big red hair bows. To Tom Waits "Temptation," their trance club dance, silent laughs and pelvic rotations follow crouched movement or still poses.

    The Monochrome Circus begins "Uta-Kata" with a dismaying loud electronic buzz. Despite impressive lifts and contact duets, the three, dancing in three squares of light, are too often off the mark and dancing in the dark. I couldn't connect the intended 'nostalgia' of a video image of children playing, with the dancer's movement. Unfortunately the projector beam glared at spectators on the far right where I sat.

    Sennichimae and especially Batik, though critical, still appeal eloquently to a universal humanity. Monochrome Circus may develop their considerable talent to this level.

    Last and most likely to succeed is Jo Kanamori's outstanding Noism05. He was recently appointed artistic director of a theater in Niigata, Japan. His "Lost Title," a world premiere, has no discernable edge of antagonism or disaffection. It is riveting dance that is joyous, generous and life affirming. Five are positioned in far corners and with movement that is brisk, stark, and to the point they transport us through this bright strategic dance. Looking down and tiptoeing, they appear otherworldly and offer us something as yet unseen. Performances, most notably by Yasutake Shimaji, Sawako Iseki, and Mika Matsumuro are extraordinary.

    JANUARY 18, 2005

    Reader comments on 8th Annual Japanese Contemporary Dance Showcase:

  • i nedd information for the next showcase   from Antonio Gonzalez, Nov 27, 2005

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