January 12, 2011 6:57 pm

Contemporary Showcase: Japan & East Asia, Japan Society, New York

 
Bul-Ssang
 Let randomness reign:
‘Bul-ssang’

Now that nearly every pocket of the globe has been exposed to view, a foreign experience is harder to come by. In the 14th edition of this annual showcase, Taiwanese, Korean and Japanese choreographers acknowledge our shrunken world, but they also belie it. The four dances cross all sorts of borders while remaining thrillingly untranslatable.

The programme’s running theme is how to make sense of an influence, a life, a love or a body that lacks intrinsic logic. Ahn Ae-Soon’s charming “Bul-ssang” – the title is a play on the Korean words for “pity” and “Buddhist statue” – simply lets randomness reign. The piece begins with its eight dancers cradling gaudy plaster of Paris religious statuettes – a serene Buddha, an imploring Jesus. Soon they are breaking into duets and solos that combine hip-hop popping and locking with Kathak stamping and the tiny, shuffling ladies’ steps of traditional Asian dance.

Eventually they send stacks of brightly coloured plastic plates flying – building material, it turns out, for a model Buddhist temple they will meticulously construct. Without pointedness, “Bul-ssang” mixes kitsch and art, reverence and insouciance.

The Condors – Ryohei Kondo’s dance and mime sketch-comedy troupe, idolised in its native Tokyo – uses its non sequiturs for comic effect. In one of many entertaining scenes that constitute the cockeyed “Goats Block the Road, Part III”, two men are kneeling as if at a tea ceremony when a young couple mistakes them for bar stools. The men are not only sat upon, they are reduced to providing sound effects for the romantic encounter.

In Maki Morishita’s solo “Tokyo Flat” it is daily routine that proves absurd, conjured from nothing – or, as it happens, from a shampoo bottle the dancer pulls from between her legs. Each of the product’s ingredients cues a gesture. Taken together, the moves form a gawky birdlike dance, restricted to a modest square of light – the “flat” of the title.

Most startling and suggestive is Taiwanese Yen-Fang Yu’s spacey romantic duet. The dancers – self-possessed and otherworldly Min-Chuan Fang and her wiry, attentive partner, Hsin-I Cheng – jiggle like jelly when they enter each other’s force field. The title, “From Here to the End of the Rainbow”, would be corny if the dance didn’t demonstrate how liquid and iridescent love feels.

3 star rating

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