Review: Duet for Dance and Ikebana
We received at work complimentary tickets to a dance and ikebana performance, so I reserved a ticket and went on Sunday, September 9th to check it out.
The performance paired the dancer Nasu Shizuno with the ikebana artist Iwase Katsuyo. It was held at the Tenri Cultural Institute of New York, right on 13th, between 5th and 6th Ave. Tenri is a Japanese “new religion”. It originated in the 19th century, close to where I did the JET program in Japan, just over the hill from Taishi-cho, in the Nara Valley. One of my best friends in Japan was raised in the Tenri Church, so I have good feelings towards the religion. I also wrote on the founding of it while at Columbia for a class.
I wanted to check out the building, thinking it would be some impressive testament to God but I didn’t get to see much of the building because I arrived slightly late and the performance had already begun. With a hush, I was ushered into one of the remaining empty seats.
The performance took place in a small gallery with high ceilings. The audience sit quiet, while a lone musician, Tsuji Yukio, provided all the music. At various times he drummed, played a Japanese flute, sang, and used effects to make the accompaniment. On the back wall hung a giant abstract, almost Jackson Pollock-style painting by Sakaguchi Susumu. In a corner lay large ikebana pieces by Iwase Katsuyo. The dancer, Nasu, sometimes danced near the pieces. Other times, she evoked the ikebana by dancing together with a branch or a stalk from the piece.
She went through three constume changes. The last was the most memorable: a white Issey Miyake dress (I think) that flowed down in perforated folds so that when she twirled she looked like a whirling dervish. The music in the last movement was the most percussive and also the most dramatic. Nasu twirled and twirled, holding the branch upright in one hand and with her other hand gesturing outwards almost like she was pointing. When she stopped after what seemed like an eternity, I was suprirsed that she maintained her balance.
It was an interesting event, and I’m glad I went. I never go see dance. It’s an art form I really don’t know enough about to appreciate. I have the same reaction I do to comedy or theater or the vaudeville acts in Coney Island, it almost novel to me now, as a audience member in the 21st century to watch live humans perform in front of me. I think we’re used to paying to watch actors perform in a movie theater, or we watch on DVDs or via download in our homes, or we’ll watch a performance on TV. I think more and more there is a filter between us and the performer and this trend is increasing. Fewer and fewer people go to watch live humans perform live.
I was so unused to it that it almost made me uncomfortable. The person so close and watching me while they performed made me seem like some medieval lord ordering his subjects to entertain him with dance. It must have been very similar, except the medieval lord probably enjoyed the voyeuristic pleasure. With me, I almost feel slightly uncomfortable. It’s a shame that the direct, raw bond between performer and spectator is being broken. This was considered entertainment for thousands of years, and that tradition is being superceded by media that is less direct, but more convenient, portable, rewindable, transferrable, but something is lost in the mix. Maybe there will be a resurgence in interest for the good, old-fashioned arts performances, but my guess is people are more likely to download and watch something at home than physically leave their houses to catch an event.
Filed under: Art, Dance, Japan, New York City | 1 Comment