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Takao Kawaguchi - 'D.D.D.'

Dancing to the Rhythm of the Heart

by Rosella Simonari

June 9, 2005 -- La Biennale di Venezia, Tese delle Vergini, Venice

The Tese delle Vergini Theatre is a small space created inside the big complex of the old Arsenal buildings, refurbished in recent years to offer new sites for the International Venice Dance Biennale Festival, which this year inaugurated its fourth season. The distance between the entrance of the Arsenal and the theatre is quite big. A long walk through the alleys and watery canals barely illuminated by candles and small lights is necessary for the audience to arrive at their destination. Having entered, we find the stage surrounded on three sides by four rows of white chairs. At centre stage there is a table, nearby a bunch of light bulbs hanging from a rope fixed on the ceiling, on the side without chairs there is a screen and some instruments such as an electric guitar and a drum. There are not many seats and the theatre fills quickly. There is also Ismale Ivo attending the performance. Ivo has been confirmed this year as artistic director of the Dance Biennale which is dedicated to exploring the relationship between science, body and soul.

In this sense, Takao Kawaguchi’s work is particularly pertinent as it is inspired by the interaction between breathing, muscles and heartbeat. “The title ‘D.D.D.’ evokes the sound of heartbeat” and it is seen in conjunction with terms like “drop, dead, drug, decay, destruction”. At the same time, Kawaguchi underlines how the repetition of the same sound can also be “slightly comical”. The table represents a dissection table as well as a ring where the limits of one’s own body are challenged and, in some cases, pushed to comical effects. The idea of rings and of a costume resembling a wrestling fighter with a white mask and white vest and pants, contribute to this latter effect. In this performance Kawaguchi is helped by artist, vocalist, musician and improviser Fuyuki Yamakawa who has a microphone attached to his own heart so that together with his electric guitar, drum and vocal sessions, we listen to his own heartbeat.

Kawaguchi’s performance is characterised by jumps and runs in and out of the stage, alternated with poses he articulates on the table-ring in which his limbs are joined together in unusual manners. In one pose he joins his hands on his back and tries to move with his bent legs on the small table. He contorts in a delicate balance pushing his body towards more and more difficult positions. At one stage Kawaguchi leaves the stage and Yamakawa gives a kind of brief lecture on the heart through the use of schemes and statistics presented through the overhead projector. The end brings some more humour in the piece. Kawaguchi, completely naked, lies on the table. Soon some water will pass through a tiny tube which is placed over the table-ring and which will fall onto Kawaguchi’s body. Yamakawa creates a crescendo by repeatedly saying “It’s coming” and the audience in the first rows is given plastic cloths to avoid getting wet. The water falls down and Kawaguchi’s body gets all wet and lucid, he keeps moving for a little while and then he ends the performance by leaving the stage among enthusiastic applause.

It was an interesting event where humour and dance were nicely balanced. Of particular effect were the musical sessions by long haired Yamakawa and the lights design by Satoru Takano. In one instance the complete darkness was broken by a single ray of light which formed a perfect diagonal line through the table-ring. In another the bunch of bulbs were turned on intermittently as to evoke, once again, the heartbeat. 

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