Friday, February 3, 2012

"Hibiki"...Sankai Juku

Today's video is a compilation of moments from Hibiki, a piece by Sankai Juku. This is a Japanese company that plays with the idea of silence and contemplation. Amagatsu Ushio, the company's founder, has taken the "butoh" dance form of the 1960s and re-mixed it for the contemporary viewer. Ushio has stated that "butoh" is a "dialogue with gravity. While other dance forms tend to revel in escaping from gravity, Sankai Juku is based on sympathizing or synchronizing with gravity." Sometimes choreography is complex and in constant motion, and other times, a choreographer may want to explore the bare minimum. Even though the dance here is not at a breakneck pace, the images will imprint themselves on your brain forever:

MUSICALITY: I have often said that good choreography is the marriage of body, breath, and music. However, at times the musical accompaniment is a harmonizing compliment to the body's natural breathing. When you inhale and exhale, an audible rhythm is created. It is very subtle, almost silent...and yet, a rhythm with an assigned tempo is present. Sankai Juku relies heavily on this fact. Watch how the breath informs every movement they make. Nothing happens without the presence of breath...and this is the music that moves them. Its also important to point out, that this natural inhale/exhale is a kind of reverse action, yin and echo. Its not surprising then, to find that "Hibiki" is the Japanese word for "echo."

DANCER SYNC: Many of the movements in this piece would be considered "pedestrian." In other words, they use the natural range of motion and movement vocabulary that is available to the average person. Interestingly, many times people watch this kind of dance and say "well, what's so HARD about that...I could do that." Aside from the fact that dance is an art form and not meant to be a trick competition, the difficulty factors comes in with the synchronization of said "simple" movement between multiple dancers, commitment to the moment, and integrity of performance. The human body is fascinating even in its static form. Suffice it to say, while the choreography might not endanger the dancers' bodies in any way, Sankai Juku has found a way to sync these "common" movements in a way that is highly pleasing to execute.

AUDIENCE ENGAGEMENT: The measure of audience engagement is the ability to capture the viewer's attention and imagination. Using this criterion, Sankai Juku always succeeds. Even if the viewer is a bit confused as to what they are seeing, the point is that they are engaged by a visual stimulus so strong that it is nearly impossible to shift focus! Whenever Sankai Juku performs live, audience members will inevitably leave the show discussing the images and ideas they were exposed to. People will interpret the performance differently...and that is the goal.

KUDOS to Sankai Juku for having the courage to embrace the silence, speak to gravity, and using an "average" movement vocabulary to to create extraordinary pictures and concepts.

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