Review: Saburo Teshigawara / KARAS in Mirror and Music at Sadler's Wells

Performance: 15 & 16 June 2011
Reviewed by Katerina Pantelides - Thursday 16 June 2011

Teshigawara | Karas

ReviewedL 15 June

Mirror and Music strives towards a new dimension of reality and tries to negotiate a space for the body within this realm of music and light. Choreographed, lit, costumed and designed by Saburo Teshigawara for his dance company KARAS, the piece is not so much about the dancers’ affinities with their reflections as dance in a world of shifting reflections and shadows.

A rhythm punctuates the performance: cycles of repetitive movement by dancers wound up like clockwork toys, shoals of moving shadows – and then, just when you think you can bear it no longer – a spectacle of unexpected beauty.

The piece begins strikingly, with creamy waxwork-still figures liberally washed over in shadow. Supple diagonals of lightning free arabesques breathe life into the long still picture, but look more carefully and you will notice that the dancers’ feet peddle consistently about an inch above the ground. The disassociation of the top and bottom half of the body makes the movement appear mechanised, effortful. Accompanied by a constant whirring noise, the dancers’ turned-in feet and tiny, frenetic steps cause the elaborately inflated upper body to resemble a swan float in a parade.

Dancers don’t so much dance to the music as visually embody it. In a particularly intense solo, Teshigawara becomes the monotone in the music, as his raised taut arms form repeated geometric traceries and the movement of his legs is limited to mere shifts of weight. Another soloist, sliding across the length of the stage on something that resembles a skateboard is as reedy and crepuscular as the flute that accompanies him.

When baroque music liberates the performance from the fetters of introspection, female dancers careen about the stage, gracefully wheeling past each other like nonchalant sleepers, scattering their loose shining hair with abandon. Once again, their lovely white arms crown their movements in fragmentary arabesques and curlicues that look as though they are being viewed underwater.

In a production where light dances as much as bodies Teshigawara’s approach to set design is highly experimental. At times this is stimulating, as when a dancer appears in silhouette against a moon coloured screen, her puppet-loose arms richocheting feverishly, her turned in feet performing that inevitable step or change. Sometimes however, Teshigawara’s lighting, or rather shadow schemes seem overwrought, obscuring the movement for no obvious artistic purpose – it was irritating to lose the dancers in washes of black or carousels of shadowy projections.

Still you forgive Teshigawara everything by the end, when after a final test of endurance – pendulum-like shifts of weight on feet that whirr percussively for what seems like an eon – all elements on stage unite in simple beauty. The whirring sound continues as creamy squares of light stream down the darkened stage, flickering over the dancers’ faces so that they resemble ‘the petals on a wet, black bough’ in Ezra Pound’s Imagist haiku*_In a Station of the Metro_*. It is a poignant end to a magical evening.

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