Her hands slowly clawing the air, her face a mask of pain and fear, tiny Mutsuko Tanaka stands on the stage of the Jpan America Theatre, the train of her long, tattered gown gathered about her feet. Twisting restlessly, she begins to grow, atraight up-seven, etght, nine feet-until her intensity, her mystery, become monumental a part of the landscape.
This is the opening of Ebisu Torti's "Noctune," the plotless dance-drama that introduced Torii ard Tanaka's four-member Butoh-sha Tenkei ensemble to Ameriea on Friday, Exponents of butoh, the nightmarish contemporary Japanese dance idiom, and former members of the seminal company Dai Rakuda Kan, these artists savor the grotesque trnagery, starling juxtapositions and unhurried buildup of emotional weight that draw butoh audiences deep into irrational stats ot consiousness.
Expressing what their program notes call "the strange radiance of life emerging trom the depths of sleep," the 70-mjnute "Nocturne" incorporates Western classical and popular muic as well as a haunting score by Masaru Soga Lightilrg by Yoshiro Abe plays a major role---and Torii himself appears in a solo of relentless clenched tension that might prove unforgettable under ordinary circurmstances.
But "Nocturne' belongs to the superb skills and fieree concentration of Tanaka sbowcaced in solo after solo. Even when the whole company assembles at the end and everyone gazes at the audience, eyes suddenly glinting a horrific red there's no mistaking the diva from hell dominating this alternately poetic and disturbing dance-theater experience.