Rumors of a détente between contact improv, ballet, and Japanese-inspired dance theatre have been vastly exaggerated.
A summit held by San Francisco dance-makers Scott Wells, Amy Seiwert and Shinichi Iova-Koga in January yielded some entertaining and provocative insights, and left observers hopeful that the next round of diplomacy would result in a full-blown piece of theatre.
A series of joint war games brought the three camps together. In one of these, the assembled troupe picked apart an abridged version of Swan Lake in mime – to comic effect.
When the dancers went rogue, Iova-Koga corralled them into rituals suggested by various Japanese theatrical traditions and movement philosophies, including Butoh and Noguchi Taiso. Observers were lulled into a meditative state by the complexity of the negotiations between the dancers’ feet and the floor, but were soon jolted to attention by Wells’ vigorous introduction to contact improv. It starts with touch, he advised us, as the dancers wandered along random paths, deliberately colliding with each other. All of a sudden, the floor seemed a dangerous place for civilians.
Wells reminded the observers of their role in this theatre: “seeing us is touching us,” he maintained. And “the world is your brain turned inside out.”
– For more of the wondrous moments that emerged when contact improv, ballet, and Japanese theatre collided and made sparks that evening, zip on over to my review in the Huffington Post. –