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Bones In Pages


Saburo Teshigawara and KARAS


Stephanie Burridge






Victoria Theatre



A Closed Book

Saburo Teshigawara honed his choreography for his own body over many years and his style is certainly unique; it would not transfer easily to any other dancer. After opening Bones In Pages by sitting at a table covered with jagged shards of glass, he then slithered bonelessly about the stage with incredible fluidity. The movement defied the skeletal structure of the body as Teshigawara thrashed about, moving between the poles of robotic, repeated gestures and the long lines familiar in contemporary dance.

It was Teshigawara’s concept of “dancing on air” that had inspired the light, gliding passages in this dance. The movement – derived from the arms circling in towards the centre of the body, head down and legs turned in – was introspective. Fluttering fingers, jabbing elbows and collapsing knees were combined with the act of reaching out, only to fold in again to begin another phrase.

A dazzling moment occurred when he circled repeatedly with a crow fluttering on his arm. However, although at first exciting, the dancing became repetitive and earthbound with few dynamic shifts or spatial changes. In a sense, he outlined the choreography in the first ten minutes; the rest of it had few surprises for the audience.

Despite the lack of choreographic development, Bones continued to tantalise the audience with various theatrical devices that suggested deeper meanings. Set in an installation of books with yellowed pages on one side and a sea of shoes on the other, the staging was both enigmatic and evocative. Throw in a live crow pecking around in the two foreground acrylic rooms with antique chairs, and the piece is wide open to multiple interpretations.

Metaphors were plentiful. Was the crow a representation of the dancer? Did the yellowed books and discarded shoes represent death and the passing of time? Was the black-clad dancer part of a Japanese anime clip that delved into the dark side of the soul? Images, not answers, abound in this piece that was extraordinary for its dancing and challenging in its concept.

Variation in the choreography came in the form of Kei Miyata, a long-time collaborator and co-director of KARAS. A co-founder of the company in 1985, she and Teshigawara set out to find a new form of beauty in Japanese dance, which was moving between two extremes, classical ballet and the slow-paced intensity of butoh. Teshigawara and Miyata’s creativity eschews categories and incorporates broad conceptual frameworks that include visual design, music and movement.

In Bones, bathed in a golden light centred at the back of the stage, Miyata danced lyrically in a short solo among books arranged neatly on the floor. Her dance enabled a transition from the right side of the stage, dominated by the intellectual sphere of books, to the left side, denoting spirituality and creativity as the rows of discarded shoes reminded one of shoes left outside the door of a temple or a public place.

She disappeared in a short blackout, giving way to another dancer, Rihoko Sato, choreographic assistant at KARAS. Sato launched into an extraordinary dance among the discarded shoes. The style was unique and personal, incorporating balletic lines into physical convulsions. Her dance ended with her aggressively throwing some of the shoes against the scrim at the front of the stage. This paralleled Teshigawara, who had also thrown things around in parts of his choreography – books, and then pages of books that fluttered like the crow.

Despite tantalising the audience with various images suggesting deeper meanings, ultimately, the intentions of the choreographers remained unclear. Although the staging had a surreal beauty and individual performances were interesting within a limited choreographic range, overall it did not engage or satisfy most of the audience – the applause was muted rather than enthusiastic.

Personally, I believe a performance should engage us on many levels – that is the enchantment of the theatre. Unless programme notes explain otherwise, the answers to onstage enigmas should lie within the performance and be transposed and translated via our own memories and experiences, rather than in the post-show talk. Either way, I was disappointed when a friend who had gone for the talk told me that the crow was meant to be nothing more than a very clever friend.

"Despite tantalising the audience with various images that suggested deeper meanings, the intentions of the choreographers remained unclear."


Choreography, Installation, Lighting and Costume Design: Saburo Teshigawara

Music Compilation: Saburo Teshigawara, Kei Miyata

Dancers: Saburo Teshigawara, Kei Miyata, Rihoko Sato

More Reviews by
Stephanie Burridge


Ratings out of 5, based on Practitioner's Vision / Reviewer's Response: ***** = Transcendent / Rapturous;
**** = Crystal / Appreciative; *** = Transmitted / Thoughtful; ** = Vague / Unsatisfied; * = Uncommunicated / Mystified.