Saturday, September 18, 2004

Akira Kasai--Pollen Revolution 

Last night Akira Kasai's performance was both over my head, and under my skin.

"Pollen Revolution" starts with Kasai in the beautiful traditional kabuki garb featured on all those TBA publicity materials. This first section was at first a bit intimidating. My knowledge of traditional Japanese performance forms is quite limited, but I do know it is entrenched in precisely codified movement patterns that are as foreign to me as, well, Japanese. The movements in and of themselves were not particularly impressive, however, I was rapt. He was a burst of color in an otherwise empty and expansive space, and though I didn't really know what was going on, I couldn't look away.

As the performance progressed, Kasai began to break free of the restricted kabuki form in a slowly building expression of tension and resistance, until finally literally breaking out of this form with an on-stage costume change. (This was a particularly interesting moment to think about in tandem with Khaela Maricich's 'presentation' on human templates). In the second section, his kimono is lifted to reveal Kasai in the black costume featured in the TBA program. This allowed for much more freedom of movement, and Kasai utilized this freedom with more expansive gestures while still maintaining a shadow of the traditional movements. The lighting changed to create a stronger contrast between shafts of light and darker shadows, and Kasai moved in and out of each, exploring every corner and edge of the stage. Though less restricted, Kasai expressed much more vulnerability in this section, an expression that culminated in a (almost) total stripping down, revealing the edges of his theatrical white makeup contrasted with his bare skin in a particularly striking duality of beauty and horror.

In the third section he donned a white suit, and somehow blended silence and stillness with hip-hop and tumbling. By this point, Kasai had me in the palm of his hand. I was hinged on his every gesture, and I'm not sure I blinked more than twice. There is something very powerful about the choices made by a body capable of anything. This was not a demonstration of his agility, strength, or mastery of technique, but rather a demonstration of his body as a voice for forces of life and existence that cannot be verbalized. I hope another blogger can come up with a more concrete description--I'm at a loss.

Kasai managed to create transitional flow from ancient Japanese movement forms to contemporary hip-hop in what is not a survey of dance history, but rather a personal odyssey of negotiating the present physical human body with its accumulated cultural knowledge and ever-evolving future destiny. Sigh. I find I don't have a vocabulary equipped for talking about Akira Kasai. And I am sure I didn't grasp everything he was communicating last night. I cannot translate Kasai's dance into words, and I don't think my mind could keep up with his performance, but his kinetic energy was speaking to my human fiber, and my physiological response was very, very real.

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