Ko Murobushi - 'Quick Silver'
by Juliet Neidish
November 10, 2007 -- Theatre for the New City, New York City
Kudos to the nonprofit artist collective CAVE Organization, (Williamsburg, Brooklyn) for the’ 3rd Biennial New York Butoh Festival. This one-month, multi-housed series of events included performances, workshops, film and lectures, all on Japanese butoh. Butoh is a dance form that was begun in 1950s Japan by artists searching for more personally expressive forms. One of the reigning masters of butoh invited from Japan to lecture, teach, and perform in this year’s festival was Ko Murobushi. Murobushi trained and performed with Tatsumi Hijikata who is today considered the creator of butoh. Murobushi was a founding member of the influential and long-running Dairakudakan Company and has since formed his own troupe while continuing to explore and develop as a solo performer. For the festival, he performed his mysterious, haunting and intense solo, “Quick Silver,” at the Theater For The New City on November 10, 2007.
Mr. Murobushi begins his piece in a Western suit with gloved hands. His face is completely wrapped in silk, lending it a frightening association with the Western “Invisible Man,” although the silken knot at the nape of his neck keeps the suggestion of the non-Western Ninja or samurai up front. The gorgeous lighting emphasizes his hands and long delicate fingers, but as they move, those fingers seem to be made of metallic bone. We watch the unveiling of his ghostly face as he slowly unwinds the silken handkerchief. An eerie glow of light encircling that face, and thus etching it into memory, is followed by a complete blackout.
The next section introduces Murobushi nearly naked. The silver make-up that covers his flesh makes him appear to be a metallicized cadaver. His sculptured body is all muscle and sinews. It is iron-strong, but not young. We witness his figure’s struggle between mind and body as he begs his own legs to let him walk. His strong will and frustration lead him to forcibly bang his naked head on the ground. After more coaxing, he masters his unwilling body and stands upright, but that just begins a long section in which he defies his own success by falling, tripping himself and collapsing with such abandon that it is impossible not to wince or wonder how he was able to master a technique that allows his body to repetitively crash to the floor backward with such force without injury. This is butoh discipline taken to a new height of virtuosic physical control.
The final section of the piece is a gift of exquisite stagecraft and lighting that creates an aesthetic landscape out of a pool of water and silvery-white powder for Mr. Murobushi to become drawn to and bathe in. However, in this earthy and beautiful environment his physical tests become faster, harsher and more animalistic. The piece finishes with what in stage time feels like an endless series of taut and harrowing falls.
“Quick Silver” is a physical tour-de force as well as a superbly crafted staging of dichotomies that are both found in nature and self-inflicted.
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