SANKAI JUKU’S ‘Tobari’ .
(photo credit: Courtesy)
After a long break, leading Butoh company Sankai Juku returned to Israel to present Tobari, As if In Inexhaustible Flux, choreographed by the company’s founder (1975) Ushio Amagatsu.
Amagatsu’s artistic approach descends directly from the two founders of Butoh, the Japanese avant-garde dance movement associated with the post-Hiroshima generation. His company has remained true to the original spirit of Butoh, maintaining the basic components of the style through the years. Yet Amagatsu, with his bountiful ingenuity, devised new variations that shed light on hidden layers of his art, which made each work a unique artistic journey with striking effect.
We find in Tobari (again) a group of bald men, painted white, executing their highly stylized sequences with alien time perception, often moving in extreme slow motion with great intensity and pedantic attention to detail. Their breathing is controlled, with a meditative quality that affects the spectators as well. Once more we see the power of stillness, best reflected on stage by Amagatsu (65) himself.
Each scene brings with it new hues of the dancers’ strength and plasticity. Their enigmatic signals are linked to the body’s impulse to immerse itself in the elements – water, air, light, earth. Those elements are often the source of inspiration and in Tobari, as in most other Amagatsu creations, they influence the stage design.
“Tobari,” is a Japanese word meaning “curtain,” but also refers to twilight, the transition from day to night.
Amagatsu uses it as reference to the entire life cycle and rebirth, also parallel to the change of seasons.
The work opens with dense darkness and a sole circle of strong light, out of which a man rises up, slowly morphing from white, cold marble statue into breathing human being. In following phases the clean set changes radically, as it fills with a densely stars-studded backdrop and black shiny pool on the floor, reflecting the stars. It seems so right, and is so beautiful it almost hurts, taking one’s breath away.