I defy anyone to describe Saburo Teshigawara’s Miroku without sounding like an exhumed hippie. The 56-year-old cultishly adored Japanese choreographer’s dance plus light installation is an oxymoron: a performance of living. The title refers to a prediction of the Buddha before entering nirvana, about the perfection of an earthbound life, but it will also resonate with contemporary fans of anime and manga, where a Buddhist priest action hero goes by the name. If the loud, shape-shifting solo works for you – and it did for me, though it took some initial adjusting – you leave the theatre feeling as if you have just emerged from a bout with the elements.

For an hour within three colour-shifting walls, Teshigawara’s dancing slips from the palsied to the buttery, with patches of alert stillness, in which he assumes a sculptural pose. With his big, knobbly, bald head, thin neck and beautiful, concentrated face, this handsome ET moves his arms as bonelessly as tendrils, or as sharply as flames of glass. His rubbery legs can seem to be slipping out from under him or, by contrast, magnetised by powerful Moonwalker hips. When Teshigawara pauses, it is often to adjust himself to the swirling scene around him.

And swirl, sweep, jitter it does. The lighting, which the choreographer designed, doesn’t merely illuminate the dance, it functions as its weather – and Teshigawara’s mercurial partner. When the charcoal walls turn sky blue, the dancer grows slippery to mirror its ethereality or stolid to harmonise with it. When the blue pulses across the walls as if in a funhouse, he moves to its rhythm more than to the soundscore’s barrage of feedback shrieks, ER beeps, windshield wiper slaps and deep earth rumblings.

It would be possible to construct an allegory from Miroku about humanity tethered to fickle circumstance. The solo even invites such an interpretation when, late on, the walls turn as dark as a prison cell, with three high windows of light projected on to them. But if the mundane is a prison, the dance suggests, it is also an asylum and a vast expanse of possibility. () www.lincolncenterfestival.org

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