Dance Entertainment

Assessment: Gradual Poses and Clouds of White Powder

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Males with shaved heads, their our bodies caked in white powder, transfer with exacting slowness. Their motions and poses are sometimes inscrutable, however their faces are typically telegraphic, contorting into open-mouthed expressions of amusement or agony as readable because the masks of comedy and tragedy.

Sankai Juku, the all-male Japanese firm, which has been touring the world for practically 50 years with a popularized model of the Japanese type Butoh, returned to the Joyce Theater on Tuesday for a two-week run. The group’s 80-minute present, “Kosa,” is a little bit of a greatest-hits program, a collection of excerpts strung collectively from older works. Sankai Juku is normally recognized for its spare but spectacular set design, however “Kosa” has nearly no décor. Because of this, the choreography and important imaginative and prescient of the inventive director, Ushio Amagatsu, stand uncovered, and the publicity is brutal.

If solely, together with the units, the corporate had discarded its music — all the time the worst a part of the Sankai Juku expertise. However the relaxing-classical Muzak continues to be right here, reduce for reasonable impact with distorted electrical guitar or the screams and booms of rockets and explosions. It’s as if we have been in a therapeutic massage parlor the place a dystopian film is taking part in.

You may nonetheless recognize the ability of the performers: the precision of their personal signal language, a hand-jive heavy on thumbs, claw shapes and pointing fingers; the spindly class of their statuesque positions; the even glide of their runs. The lighting (by Genta Iwamura) is delicate and nuanced, a lot so that each one the gradual posing can appear in service of the lighting design, offering bodily shapes and surfaces to illumine.

The stitching collectively of the excerpts can be skillful, an overlapping construction that maintains the movement. However for me this had the discouraging impact of extending the seemingly interminable facet of every part and the night as a complete. Sankai Juku has lengthy lacked the transgressive energy to disturb or the numinous thriller that the very best Butoh has. When transferring rapidly, the dancers give off clouds of white powder that dangle briefly within the air, however little that Sankai Juku does has any lasting emotional or metaphorical resonance.

And so when 4 of them cluster like a cabal, smirking as they increase their skirts to flash some leg, finger-painting on each other’s faces, breaking into silent hysterical laughter and pointing on the viewers, they appear just like the Three Stooges stripped of knockabout humor. And when the soloist proceeds glacially throughout the diagonal of the stage, gazing upward, his face ultimately forming a rictus of ache, it isn’t mesmerizing or profound or time bending. It’s simply tedious. “Kosa” is uninteresting.

Sankai Juku

By means of Nov. 5 on the Joyce Theater;