Ishiguro Dance Theatre:
White animals

Seen at Institute of Contemporary Art, London, November 21st 2000.

The Japanese company Ishiguro Dance Theatre performed a triple bill consisting of Otogibanashi, Kujyaku and White animals .
The first piece was based on a Japanese ghost story, with a plot obviously unknown to most of the Western audience. What fascinated me was the sense of mystery coming across through the measured, unison movements of the elaborately costumed "Amulet dolls" and the contrast to the sudden falls and stillness of the "Vixen".

It is hard to keep seasoned performers off the stage - and there is no reason they should not perform. Yet, in the west a choreographer's performance like Kujyaku is rare. Maybe the decision of Setsuko Ishiguro to perform the piece herself reflects a difference between Japanese and Western attitude to maturity. The movement material may be less elaborate than in the other two pieces, but there is a beautiful sense of atmosphere and a dreamy quality that carries us away into her world.

White Animals, the final piece of the program is inspired by an old picture scroll of playing animals, their interplay used as a contrast to human isolation in our contemporary society.

The dancers were suspended half-above rolling metal trolleys which they pushed across the stage, while a live projection on the back wall reflected their presence. The "trolleys" were used as inspiration for movement and created "action" with their speed and momentum, but they also acted as a sort of barrier between the characters, keeping them out of touch with each other.

The projection was filmed with infrared camera, so only the warm bodies were shown. Thus the cold trolleys were not visible, and the human figures were given extra emphasis by their colourful "echo" on the wall. Because the trolleys disappeared we also became more aware of the space kept between them, especially when they crashed into each other.

The piece was divided into three sections, the second being a trio of "animals", whose playful socialness contrasted the isolation of the individuals in the preceding and following sections.

The infrared projection served to focus the piece on the human condition - it's like we're seeing the essence of the performer's lifes lifted from their physical existence on stage. Although the basic idea of human isolation contrasted with an idealised view of nature is not new, this piece was a rich and original rendering of the theme, and worth seeing for its inventiveness.

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