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Kagemi: Beyond the Metaphors of Mirrors
Written by Lola MacMillan   
Friday, 19 October 2007 08:00
Kagemi: Beyond the Metaphors of MirrorsPhotos - Jacques Denarnaud

As part of the Melbourne International Arts Festival, Japanese butoh company Sankai Juku is making its Melbourne debut with Kagemi: Beyond the Metaphors of Mirrors. Founded by performer Ushio Amagatsu, this company is presenting Melbourne audiences with a sumptuous, visceral feast of movement, beauty and emotion.

Inspired by ikebana, the art of Japanese flower arranging, Kagemi is a revelatory dance piece, which seemingly presents the layers of life below the surface of what we usually see, while simultaneously masking what lies beneath the surface of the performers’ seemingly effortless movements. Kagemi invites the audience to surrender to the feeling and to the resonance of this meditative and ultimately uplifting work.

This is truly a gorgeous piece of theatre. As I would expect of butoh, the dancers’ movements are marked by both grace and vigour, the choreography is both contemplative and playful and the set is exact and stunning. Each performer displays an extremely impressive control over movement and performance. Complex costuming is given the illusion of simplicity and the sound, a blend of western and eastern influences, is enveloping. As is traditional in butoh, the performers have shaven heads and are covered in white chalk. The effect of this initially strips the performers of their individuality, but it quickly becomes evident that the effect actually enhances differences between the performers allowing for individual personalities to be revealed.

I have always found butoh to be an exciting performance style and this production is certainly no exception. Butoh has its origins in Japan in the 1960s, where it was developed as a response to war and to the violence of men. Butoh traditionally sought to express a means of ‘grounding’ man in the beauty of the earth (Sankai Juku is an all-male company). Company founder, choreographer and principle performer Ushio Amagatsu has further adapted this, always evolving, performance style with a combination of Japanese traditions and European influences.

Kagemi: Beyond the Metaphors of Mirrors feels faultless and is very well suited to the State Theatre. The attention to detail is creditable and enthralling, as the production invites audiences to yield to a profoundly beautiful and moving experience.

The audience response on opening night was rapturous, and deservedly so.

Sankai Juku is an experience not to be missed by those with a willingness to acquiesce and be enveloped. It is both an experience of revelatory movement theatre and a representation of art that is simultaneously insightful, humorous, surprising and beautiful.


Melbourne International Arts Festival presents
Kagemi: Beyond the Metaphors of Mirrors
Sankai Juku

Venue: the Arts Centre, State Theatre
Dates: Thu 18 – Sat 20 Oct at 7.30pm
Duration: 1hr 30min no interval
Tickets: Premium $84.50 / A Reserve Full $65 / A Reserve Groups (8+) $58.50 / A Reserve Conc $48.75
B Reserve Full $52 / B Reserve Conc $39 / B Reserve Student $22 / C Reserve Full $36 / C Reserve
Conc $27 / C Reserve Student $22 / School Groups $12
Bookings: Ticketmaster 1300 136 166 | www.melbournefestival.com.au
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