New Japanese Dance: Technically Dazzling, and Not Immune to Western Ways

The 2005 installment of Japan Society's annual showcase testifies to a wealth of imagination, theatrical smarts, and technical prowess on the Japanese dance scene. The strongest works on the program demonstrated an international outlook, incorporating much Western influence while retaining a stylization and emotional obliqueness characteristic of Asian art.

Choreographed by the company, Monochrome Circus's Uta-kata(Bubbles) sets a trio of lost souls in lusty, furious motion accented by a soft-focus video of playful children. Kosei Sakamoto's Kyoto-based troupe certainly fulfills its program note promise of juxtaposing violence and nostalgia. A dense atmosphere of thwarted dreams charges the piece, lending complex meanings to the stunning athleticism.

Jo Kanamori's Lost Title, for his newly founded company, Noism05, was the most ambitious piece of the lot—and also the most European. A handsomely danced quintet for physical virtuosi organized according to an implacable structure, it might be a cousin of William Forsythe's pared-to-the-bone works, where incredible feats of the body only underline a pervasive anomie.

On a more modest scale, Kaiji Moriyama, a performer remarkable for his fierce concentration and svelte control, offered his solo Katana (Sword). Full of undulations, feats of contortion and balance, and keen-edged thrusts, the dance proposes he's both the wielder of the weapon and the lethal blade itself. Like Moriyama's solo, the Sennichimae Blue Sky Dance Club's A Bowl of Summer draws on the artists' rich cultural inheritance but gives it an odd twist, concocting vignettes—mysterious and grotesque, but at the same time upbeat and amusing—that lie somewhere between circus clowning and butoh.

The curtain-raiser was a dud. Shoku(Touch), choreographed by Ikuyo Kuroda for her company, Batik, opens with five wild-haired maenads in scarlet clutching their crotches and escalates from there in an all too predictable faux-porn frenzy.

 
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