First there was the sound of a drop.
A drop fell from one of the props (beautifully ornamented top-shaped glass receptacles with mini-pipettes that was suspended from the ceiling) into one of the huge shallow transparent bowls that were arranged in a wide U-shape around the stage. The bowls were filled with water and looked out-of-the-world in the almost-dark stage that was covered with fine white sand (I learnt later that more than 2 tons of sand was brought in from the shores of Lake Michigan).
Then there was complete silence.
Dancers covered in white rice powder entered silently like ghosts and lay in fetal positions near the bowls. To the sound of drops, they slowly unfurled themselves to life. And the journey began.
This was how Sankai Juku’s “Hibiki: Resonance from far away” started. To say, the first dance “Drop” was beautiful would be a huge understatement. It was mesmerising. The dancers slowly came to life- shown by exquisite but very controlled repetitive movements of the dancers rising up and then back down.
To summarise, Hibiki is about the stages of life expressed in a very beautiful, calm and slow manner. It starts with the showing the change of embryos. Then as they come into the world, there is tension and there is resonance due to this tension and also, due to lack of it. There are changes in the body due to its reaction to the world outside it. Then there is calm inner reflection. And finally there’s light and peace and we go back to where it began. The cycle repeats, as Ushio Amagatsu says, “this million year drama”.
Sankai Juku’s performance was mindblowing. The dance philosophy that Ushio Amagatsu follows is based on butoh. Slow controlled deliberate movements with focus on the execution rather than on grace and then repetition- these were some of the differences in his style. The dancers were all mature and older and the average age would have been at least 6 years higher than a that of any other dance group. I think hte experience of the dancers helped to add more gravity to the dance.
The music was brilliant. There were couple of themes (like “displacement” and “reflection”) which I found was too heavy and tedious for me. And the music at places sounded disturbing (weird too). But it matched the moods and the choreography so well.
The lighting arrangement for Hibiki was exceptional. For instance, the way they showed darkness enfolding was awesome! Two sets of screens were pulled in two directions( vertical and horizontal) towards each other over a lighted background (when I mean lighted, imagine the brilliant suffused yellow glow of the sun at dawn) thereby creating a shrinking window of light. And then in the end, there was light again!
For “the outer limits of the red” sequence, red dye was poured into one of the bowls and the light shone over it creating a red glow which was in contrast with the pure white gowns of the dancers (they were all male but they wore some form of a corseted gown) and the effect was just breath-taking.
During the dance, the sand was kicked up a bit and the lighting effects made it seem as if rays of light were streaming through misty climes thus casting a very mystical and ethereal aura on the stage.
According to me, the way these lighting effects, props and movements melded together was what makes Sakai Juku such an unique group. Here’s something to think about.
“An embryo, one month after conception, will
From ichthyic to amphibian,
Reptile to mammal.
This million year drama,
Emerging upon the shores of the
Is enacted by an embryo
Within a matter of days.”- Ushio Amagatsu
Isn’t that beautiful?
Do you know what I was remided of when after I saw “Sankai Juku”? Earthbenders in the series “Avatar:the Last Airbender”. (If you haven’t seen “Avatar:the last airbender” anime series,oh my god, what are you doing? But, oh well, I will save it for another time! :-))
Still Enamored, yours truly