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 The Review of the Butoh Works of TOMOE SHIZUNE
 @ The Joyce Theater, NY gBeyond Butoh, Seeming to Emerge From Stone and Returnh 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. gDark Arth 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. gButoh Journeys of the Spirith 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 gdark shadow danceh 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, Hakutobofs 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 ghang your hat onh. 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 actorfs tendency to alter his balance. Itfs 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 itfs a tradition that still seems a philosophy away from our own. When the programme notes tell us that itfs all about gJizo, the guardian deity of children,hwe 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. 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