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Teshigawara / Karas - 'Bones in Pages'

Counting crows

by Thea Nerissa Barnes

October 22, 2004 -- Queen Elizabeth Hall, London

Bell chimes and other asunder of noise escalate in volume. There is a table with pieces of broken glass sticking out of its surface next to a wall of opened books. Close to the wall is Teshigawara sitting at the table. The light enhances the man sitting there and dozens of books line this stage right wall, are scattered on the floor in front of the table, and stood upstage centre. Plexiglas pieces encase either side of a table with a red book stood in the centre of the table. Each piece has a chair: stage right - just the seat, stage left - a dark carved wooden high back chair. Atop the stage right, Plexiglas piece is a crow, strapped to the top. The crow is anchored to the fixture so it cannot fly. Stage left is covered with shoes, and above the shoes is another chair mounted on the wall. This stillness save for the movements of the crow presents in one instance visual art but in actuality a world framed by a scrim. The proscenium fitting the Queen Elizabeth theatre makes the total stage space a living installation.

This beginning stillness presented a moment to heighten or confirm expectations, or perhaps open the mind’s eye to several meanings as it gazes at this clutter arranged so meticulously throughout the space. A man sitting amongst open books becomes, like the books, a type of object to be read, flicked through. Like words printed on a page his moves weave sentences of significance across the audience’s eyes, converting possible metaphors in written text into metonyms for movement text. For this work movement text creates semiotics of its own becoming the essences for multiple interpretations. What is portrayed, what is inferred, what is recognised, conjured and then revealed in this landscape of animate and inanimate objects is really about the gaze as much as it is about Teshigawara’s articulate performance to convey his intentions.

Traversing only a small bit of this landscape, Teshigawara’s every move became a word in a sentence that said something differently; that when coupled with facial and hand gestures offered altered significances. The movement is recognisable; an amalgamation of ballet and modern accompanying some fragmented and sequential body moves that reminded one of urban, body wave, body popping, break dance inclinations. Teshigawara’s vocabulary referenced contemporary techniques only as a means to travel and express imagined relationships and transformations. The distortion, fragmentation, and broken-ness of the glass on the table were referenced in Teshigawara’s first movement phrases. Teshigawara’s sitting and subsequent standing postures seemed a trance signalling the possibility that this whole event was a dream.

The distortion of body moves signalled a transformation that suspended reality, awakening some liminal environment. Walls became doors with changes in lighting states. A dropped book switched the mood of the movement and the music from a sound scape to classical music renditions breaking and shifting still poses to travelling sequences. A mimed phrase of caressing across the high back chair leads to a lone woman, Kei Miyata, standing upstage centre. Her simple arm and hand gestures progressed to violent body waves that with the long black costume mad her slither and ooze almost phantom like in and through a shaft of light.

Another figure wearing a mask, Rihoko Sato, appeared in the upstage left corner and progressed downstage with fragmented, jerky, movements that didn’t disturb the careful placement of the shoes. Sato’s movements would jump into the air and fall to the ground repeatedly with slight disturbance of the shoes. Sato’s movement would then degenerate into fits of anguish hurdling shoe after shoe at the scrim. Throughout the crow appeared to react to the sounds of the music or the audience hopping to face upstage, to stare out at the audience, not much else. Towards the end the crow pecked at its hobble, pruned its wings and, only briefly tried, careful fluttered in an effort to fly. In the end, the crow confined (or is it resigned?) to pecking at his hobble alluded to Teshigawara returning to the initial posture, contemplating, staring out beyond the broken glass, sitting in that chair amongst the books.

Throughout, Teshigawara’s movement expressions were more proficient and efficient than spectacular, pared down to only the essentials giving only a slight hint of his years of experience. In each section an essence was portrayed. The moments for the other dancers illustrations of Teshigawara’s mind state, a hint of inner tribulations, apparitions of a piece of self or something or someone despised or desired. The books, a metaphor for possibilities remained static at the end, some torn but still the dominant source of visual inspiration. There was repetition, the repeat of total body movements and delicate, searching hands with facial expressions that illustrated a decision, anguish, and affirmation. There was reconciliation, something missed and found, anguish -- even violence in this space, vast in its potential but so utterly enclosed in on itself, hobbled like the crow.

Edited by Jeff.

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