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The Review of the Butoh Works of TOMOE SHIZUNE
 
The Joyce Theater, NY
“Beyond Butoh, Seeming to Emerge From Stone and Return”
by Jack Anderson, The New York Times

Actions speak louder than words. Quite a few words are needed to describe "RENYO", which TOMOE SHIZUNE and HAKUTOBO presented at the Joyce Theater. At least as many are required to place this event in a historical and esthetic context. Fortunately, the impact of what happened on stage can be summarized in a sentence or two."Renyo" set eight austerely robed dancers on a quest. Their spiritual commitment and emotional intensity always commanded attention.

But much still needs to be said about the historical background of this troup. Hakutobo was established in Tokyo in 1974 by Tatsumi Hijikata, one of the founders of the neo-Expressionist contemporary Japanese dance form known as Butoh. When Hijikata died in 1986, his disciples decided to keep the company alive. Since 1986, it has been directed by Mr. SHIZUNE, who has renamed it TOMOE SHIZUNE and HAKUTOBO, a lengthy name, but one that both acknowledges its past and suggests that, under his direction, it will continue to go its own creative way.

Some American dancegoers may associate Butoh with imposing but. lugubrious spectacles for dancers in masklike white makeup who grimace interminably and strike studiously weird poses. There were moments when the members of HAKUTOBO moved in a determinedly stately fashion, and they did indeed make bizarre gestures. Yet their pace varied throughout the evening and the makeup turned no face into a mask. Instead of being discussed in terms of narrow concepts of what butoh is or isn't about, TOMOE SHIZUNE and Hakutobo should be seen simply as an example of Japanese modern dance.

The dancers often gave the impression that they were emerging from and returning to stone. At other moments, they seemed to be headed towards a great revelation that was clear to them although invisible to the audience, and their facial expressions kept changing from puzzlement to ecstasy. Mr. Tomoe was responsible for the work's music and stage design as well as its choreography. The curtains that served as backdrop constantly shimmered in the lighting and Mr. Tomoe's taped score blended the sounds of rainfall with electronic music.



“Dark Art”
by Deborah Jowitt, THE VILLAGE VOICE

Is this spawn of the wild postwar Japanese art scene an icon of latter-day orientalism - redefining the visions of "exotic", "perverse", and "dangerous" that mesmerized 19th-century writers and artists? Or do Butoh artists touch on something currently missing from American dance, and secretly craved? In a panel discussion Susan Sontag spoke of the intensity that makes Butoh as being a quality "disavowed" in our culture. I've come to believe that Butoh's wallop comes from the fact that it is both foreign, or "other", and universal.

Butoh performances transfix and seduce me. In this latest, more polished version of Tomoe Shizune's Renyo, the pale makeup has been abandoned in the interest of universal appeal. Akeno's stunning performance is now the undisputed core of the work. Two men who materialize in the background from time to time frame her like statues guarding a temple gate. Tomoe Shizune, wearing white, passes through, an occasional impassive sentinel. The other women, their kimonos at first back to front, sink and rise so smoothly that earth could be swallowing them, then gently spitting them out.

Akeno, however, keeps transforming before our eyes. She is beautiful, remarkable, terrible. She is an infant. What she does is immensely complex and subtle, even while it seems single-minded. She is uneasy in her skin, as if infinitesimal grains of sand were rolling down her nerves.


“Butoh Journeys of the Spirit”
by Janis Berman, NEW YORK NEWS DAY

The company sojourning this week at the Joyce offers a less flashy variety of the Japanese dance form known as Butoh than the troupes we have become accustomed to seeing here. TOMOE SHIZUNE's HAKUTOBO dancers don't hang upside down or spit red ribbons or rice-powder themselves into whiter-than whiteness. But the interior journeys of the spirit, here as there, find eloquent expression in a work whose stillness is as dynamic as its motion.

The star figure is Akeno, a woman in an orange dress-kimono. She is clearly the soul of Butoh, ageless and endlessly supple, and embodying the universality that is at the heart of the performance. The stage's ropy, naturalistic backdrop suits the theme of the dance, which is not just about people, but about stone. The stones - eight dancers- are Jizo. "Strip away the skin of the Jizo", says artistic director Tomoe Shizune, "and the lava begins to flow."

The dancers ' bodies have a quality that suggests flow and change, but there is also a sense of spirits making themselves at home in those bodies, ending long journeys to settle into their true natures. It's a less restless aspect than is exhibited by other troupes. The movement style derives from Tomoe's own long struggle with asthma. The bodies are tremulous, but their kimonos conceal an armature of endurance. Like infants they experience within seconds sorrow and happiness, or even, perhaps like the rest of us. Faces transfigure in the space of seconds from grimaces to smiles. The smiles, however, seem more inclusive, more welcoming than in other troupes. This Butoh is touching as well as enthralling.


Adelaide Festival, Australia

By Jill Sykes, The Sydney Morning Herald

Tomoe Shizune and Hakutobo rely on a simple setting and selective lighting to project the essence of their art through the medium of the performers themselves. It is the most thought-provoking and absorbing butoh presentation I have seen in Australia.


By Alan Brissenden, THE AUSTRALIAN

THE rapid tribal beat of Mark Morris's Grand Duo is more than a world away from the slow deliberateness of Tomoe Shizune's Renyo. It's one of the great benefits of a festival that enriched value can be given to such works by the contrast between them made so evident when they are seen consecutively.
Renyo probes beneath the skin of Jizo, the divine guardian of children, and in about a dozen scenes, experiences from birth to death gradually unfold, often to the sound of falling rain or trickling water. It is tempting to see a narrative line, but the structure is not linear; episodes emerge from the darkness, take us to an edge ten recede again, leaving us elated, disturbed, perhaps quieter within ourself, changed. The performer's control of slowness allows us time to participate in their journey.
Two of the grey-faced dancers represent age and youth. The younger, in red, is capable of a seemingly impossible range of facial expression, from a contorted, silent scream of utmost terror to the puckish humour of a baby.
Six others, chorus-like, orchestrate the moods which change imperceptibly as do the gestures and movements. Their ghost-like appearance is accentuated by long, feet-concealing costumes so that there is a sense of drifting weightlessness.
Sometimes eyes are closed so that hand gestures and positions are emphasised. The upper body is often erect, sinking and rising with mesmerizing gradualness. It is a measure of the power of these performers that they held a school matinee audience silent and enthralled for 1.5 hours.


By Anita Donaldson, THE ADVERTISER

Butoh or “dark shadow dance” evolved in Japan during the post-World War II period as a protest against both traditional Japanese and modern Western dance forms.
Yet while the art form embodies that protest, it also retains the essential Japanese aesthetic in its simplicity and spirituality.
Created by artistic director Tomoe Shizune, Hakutobo’s enigmatic Renyo (Far from the Lotus) epitomizes that aesthetic.
From its first pitch-black moment, the work draws you gently, but very persuasively, into a shadowy world beyond the immediate here and now.
There is no storyline, nothing to really “hang your hat on”. Instead rather ragged ghost-figures ? the jizo, or deity guarding children ? create simple yet compelling images that quietly fade in and out, leaving a suggestion of an idea rather than any tangible concept.
In a sense the ghost-figures can be seen to represent the physical form of the inner spirit, and Renyo a metaphor for the journey into the unknown that we all take in some way or another.


By James Mullighan, SUNDAY MAIL

Tomoe Shizune & Hakutobo's Renyo with its ghostly androgenous figures, snail-pace movement, compelling score, wondrous lighting and one hair-rising climax simply drips with rich symbolism and powerful images.


The Edinburgh International Festival

By Don Morris
, THE SCOTSMAN

The 50th Festival will surely deservedly by remembered for the first Japanese presentation of McMaster's tenure, the stunning Butoh of TOMOE SHIZUNE. TOMOE SHIZUNE flows on to the stage, a straggle-haired prophet in white. Each muscle of the toe, foot, leg, seems to be independently controlled, even the fluttering eyelids a spectacle of concentration and intensity. Two dancers stand like sentinels upstage, while four balance with supreme authority a triumph of stasis in the dreamlight, unearthly peace and beauty of this work.


By Mark Fisher, THE HERALD

THE self-styled theatre anthropologist Eugenio Barba has a theory that what all performance traditions have in common is the actor’s tendency to alter his balance. It’s a theory he applies he universally, but he developed it in the light of his studies of Asian theatre, and if this example of Japanese Butoh is typical, you can see how the idea might have occurred to him.
Directed and choreographed by Tomoe Shizune, a former pupil of Hijikata Tatsumi who helped forge the Butoh discipline in the 1960s, Renyo−Far from the Lotus is a brief but scrupulously observed 75 minutes in which never a straightened leg is seen. The nine dancers, including Shizune himself, move crab like their arms a slow-motion flail, their muscles rippling from toe to fingertip, their bodies in a permanent state of near imbalance as if they will tumble at any moment.
These seem like states of anxiety, the outstretched arms calling for our comfort, a feeling intensified by a soundtrack of rushing water or pounding drums. But then there are still Zen-like centres where suddenly all is placid and calm, and the open arms become giving and welcoming.
Principal dancer is Akeno, in her orange kimono a fascinating performer who has every muscle at her command. When she squats in the lotus position, you believe she could float away in the breeze if she so chose.
For all the fascination, it remains a demanding piece of work. Shizune has tried to make the form more accessible, but it’s a tradition that still seems a philosophy away from our own. When the programme notes tell us that it’s all about “Jizo, the guardian deity of children,”we can only wonder at our cultural ignorance.

By John Percival, INDEPENDENT

No sooner have we learnt the rules of a new game than somebody comes along to change them. Practitioners of butoh, the form of dance theatre invented in the 1960s by Japan's post-Hiroshima generation, customarily perform half naked, their bodies and faces painted white. TOMOE SHIZUNE has done away with all that, hoping thus to bring out the cast's individual qualities.


By Alastair Macaulay, FINANCIAL TIMES

At the King's Theatre the nine performers of Renyo - Far from the Lotus are quite possibly the finest collection I have ever seen.


Matsumoto Theater Festival

松本演劇フェスティバル・パンフレットより

「白桃房の舞台から立ち登った、あの懐かしい感じは一体なんだろう。

わたしたちは、こきざみに震える奇妙な仕種に撹乱され、中空を見すえる不気味な半眼に吸い寄せられ、かげろうのように揺れ動くおどり手たちの移動に引きずられ、次の瞬間すべてを静止させる硬直した死体に縛り付けられる。つまり、決して穏やかな舞台を見ていたわけではない。なのに、観終わった後、痺れるような感覚の奥に、ふっと湧き上がる柔らかなものを実感した。それは厳しさと優しさに包まれ、冷たさと温かさに支えられている古い記憶にまつわる情感だ。懐かしさのようなもの、アイデンティティーの零点といってもいいのだが、白桃房の舞踏のオリジナリティはこの地点から出発しているように思われる。

そういう意味では、これまでの現代演劇フェスティバルで上演された三十六作品のなかで最も強烈にオリジナリティを発揮した舞台であった。現代表現の特徴はオリジナリティの喪失である、というレベルを遥かに超えて、それは独創性と正当性を主張していたと思う。あの懐かしさはそのような確信を伴って今も生きている」。


TOGA International Festival

朝日新聞 息づく生命 いとしさじわり

「温かな感触の、美しい舞台だった。時の流れの中に立つ、老いた木と、若い木の、誕生、生長、死、再生が、表現される。背景の壁は樹皮を思わせる微妙な色合い。破れた布を重ね合わせた衣装も、森の中から選び出したようなやさしい色で、しなやかに演者を包んでいる。柔らかな日差しの中で伸びやかに育つ若木。容赦なく襲うあらしに倒れる老木。自然の中に息づく生命のいとしさが、胸にじわりと広がる。演じられる場と、舞がぴたりと合い、劇場は不思議な小宇宙になった。舞台が作りだす空気を呼吸するうちに、見る者の心も異空間を漂っていた。」



プレビューセレクション 立木Y子

「この舞踏は二本の樹の姿に託して、生成、死、そして再生という生きとし生けるものの生命の時間が描かれている。樹々や花々、動物達が登場、踊り手達はこうした自然界に息づく生命を繊細な動きで丁寧に心をこめて表現していく。陽の光に喜び、風雨に耐え、生命を燃やしていく生きもの達の姿が感動を呼ぶ心優しき舞踏である。宇受美が大木の豊かさと優しさを、芦川羊子が嵐に倒れていく老木の姿を印象的に演じている。土方亡き後、現在友惠しづねを中心に創作に打ち込む白桃房の舞踏の中に、土方舞踏を継承しつつも、新しくより普遍性を持った形で発表し始めた舞踏の可能性を見る思いがする。」




The Review of Music of TOMOE SHIZUNE

『スイングジャーナル』 小川隆夫

「本作を聴いて彼が演奏家として以上に、音楽全般に対する構成力に優れた才能を発揮する人だと感じた。メンバーからもわかるように、ここでの演奏はフリー・フォームで展開されていくが、こうしたアプローチにおける構成力の巧みさは、より強いアピール度を持って聴き手に訴えかけてくる。ここではアコースティック・ギターを演奏していることもあり、クラシック・ギター的アルペジオや、邦楽にも通じる音階が多用され、彼を独自のギタリストとして位置付けている。それにしてもスピード感溢れる彼のギターは鮮烈だ。」



『ラティーナ』

「その演奏には音楽に対する切実で根源的な問いかけが内包されている。具体的には音楽によって何が可能か?を果敢に試みている。ギターという楽器としての限界性と、音の領域を拡大しようとする衝動が破綻を臭わせつつ拮抗して、静謐なカオスを生み出している。テクニックには目を見張るものがあり、邦楽の宮城道雄に捧げた曲、異端的ブルース・フィーリングを漂わせた曲など、聴きどころは多いが、といわけボトルネック奏法を駆使したラストのスロー・ナンバーが印象に残る。」



『ジャズ批評』

「極めて独自の音楽観を持ち、それを実践し続ける友惠のギターは制度化されたスタイルを超え変化し続けるという稀に見る行為者であると言える。友惠はあらゆるジャンルを通過して今日に至り、またこれから先も変わり続けてゆくミュージシャンである。メロディアスなものの追求から一転して破壊に至るまでの全方位的なレンジの広がりを有し、自己の一部だけを切り売りするという事から脱却し、感情、そして生活、さらには思想的背景までを音楽の中に盛り込もうとするその姿勢は、まさしく一人一派たらんとする見事な態度といえる。」



『ギターミュージック』 

「ギターの常識をつき放し、自らの思想でギターを切り刻んでいるのだ。だが、それは付け焼刃の竹光とは違う。並のギタリスト以上のギター・テクニックをつきつけられてドキッとするのである。」


アルバム「孤山」 ライナーノーツより 今井正弘

「長年、尊敬の眼差しを向けて来たという、宮城道雄へのオマージュは前述したように見事な構成と演奏により、友惠と宮城道雄との関係が浮き彫りにされ、また 何よりも驚いたのは『世紀末』での演奏だった。この曲が一番多くのテイクを重ねたのだが、それはそのはずで、ワンテイク増す毎に見違えるように変化して いったのだ。けだるく、無力感に満ちたこの無垢な世界こそは友惠の持つ音楽美なのだ。この曲を聴くと安易な聴きごこちだけ良い環境音楽がいかに見せかけだ けのものかが良く分かる。一切の余裕を取り去ったところで、こうした『世紀末』のような優しくエロティックな演奏が出来るという証明でもあろう。

私はこの名付けようのないギタリストである友惠の音楽を考える時、従来の言葉の中で言い表す術を知らない。たった一人の世界を築いてゆこうとする男の音楽を例えば『孤山』という名で呼んでみたい気がした。」


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