Butoh Dance Company "Butoh-sha Tenkei"
Ebisu Torii and Mutsuko Tanaka
Butoh-sha Tenkei
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"Los Angeles Times", FEB.28,2000


Butoh Troupe Takes Impulsive Steps to Comforting Finale

Jumping onto the stage of the Japan America Theatre from along, low platform near th back wall. Mutsuko Tanaka of the Butoh-sha Tenkei company restlessly, compulsively swirls an enormous, ruffled orange cape to recorded rhythmic percussion. All the staggering and shuddering, the grotesque head-lolling and hands clawing the air mark her solo as prime neo-Expressionist Japanese butoh, but its extensive amount of dancing represents a major departure for a contemporary movement-theater idiom celebrated as much for stark simplicity as fierce passion.

舞踏舎 天鷄Many such surprises occur in the West Coast prerniere of Ebisu Torii's "Kanata" ("In the Distance") on Saturday. Take the duct for Yukari Ueda and Kaori Saito in which the former tries to climb a rope and plunges helplessly to the floor (typical butoh) while the latter smiles with insane glee while performing a bizarre parody of jazz-Latin show-dance steps (any-thing-but-typical butoh) .

Torii and Tanaka began theirl butoh careers in the brilliant, anarchic Dai Rakuda Kan company, where human life. always seemed a condition of overwhelming pain or engulfing dementia, if not both. However, "Kanata" portrays it as merely a pathway to another plane, where Ueda and Saito recline like heavenly odalisques and Torii stands, arms open in welcome. In Tanaka's final solo, she backs toward that plane---the platform at the rear---as if seeing wonders for the first and last time, saying goodbye to a world she had scarcely glimpsed earlier in her obsession with her own emotions.

If you can think of "marat/Sade" crossed with "Our Town," the notion of irrational impulses spending themselves violently but leading to a profound sense of resignation might not startle you. For the rest of us, the strange juxtapositions of Masaru Soga's score, the extremes in Seiichiro Ikegame's lighting design and, particularly, the spectrum of mad-unto-rational sorrow traced by the astonishing Tanaka define a weirdly compassionate world view, one as unexpected in its own way as Saito's crazed mambo.

The company dicated the event to the memory of locally based impresario .Darlene Neel, who died in December: reason enough for the comforting finale.

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