Invitation into a Carefree Catharsis

Hiroshi Unno

When I went in, the performance had not started yet, and as I was sitting in my seat waiting, I became sleepy. When I came to, a woman prostrating in the gloomy cave came into my vision. It was in this half-asleep state that I entered the labyrinth Ariadone spun.

Things captured by the dance underground

Carlotta Ikeda danced so gently that it was hard to say if she was moving or not moving. When the other members, their faces painted white and scowling, distorted their bodies, it was like a stoic interval that was the dance of darkness flowing. It was an "interval," drawn out and requiring a continuation that was hard even for the ones watching to bear, and this was what the dance underground, the dance of darkness, captured. At times, it was like a contest of patience between the dancers and the audience. Unable to bear watching the unmoving dancers, the audience moves.

I have seen American dancers dance in a Japanese space, but it did not have the "interval" that the dance of darkness contains. The time in Western dance such as ballet and modern dance is constantly moving, and there is no absolute stillness. That is why even if they attempt to portray a Japanese-like interval, it merely appears momentarily in between movements, and is never absolutely still.

As for the dance of darkness, within the stillness, there is motion. Sitting cross-legged in an Oriental style and looking into the genealogy of the time and space of yoga. American dancers cannot bear this kind of stillness, one that is as if it was deeply rooted in the earth, and end up jumping about easily. In contrast, the dance of darkness does not contain any jumping. The dance that persists within the intrinsic stillness is conceiving a threat towards monotony and objective opacity. It does not bring about a light catharsis of the body.

The dance of darkness that may have been counterculture in the 60s can be seen as falling into an impasse of the eerie monotony as of late. Interest is being lost in the oppression appearing in the form of self-mortifying monks, weathered by the scandalous nature.

But in regards to this kind of dangerous situation, the flow of a new expression of space quickens. “Zarathustra” by Ariadone no Kai (Sogetsu Hall, April 10-12, 1980) was a performance that made the aspect of the transition period evident. I enter with a peace of mind, being accustomed to the choreography of the dance of darkness, but within the space of this new spectacle that gradually goes into disorder, I am guided along; my fascination with eerie performances disappears and I am invited into a carefree catharsis. I was moved by how Carlotta Ikeda, from the opaque oppression of the dance of darkness, reaches a transparent depth and a freedom with lightness.

Mixing with Eeriness

Ariadone no Kai that had such scandalous confusion and antics came to possess a kind of depth. In Ariadone no Kai’s performance at the theater opening of the Dairakudakan Toyotama Garan, they laid down with their torsos upright like Fernand Khnopff’s “Sphinx” and displayed the beauty of the end of the century. A vision of Nietzsche’s night typical of the end of the century was shown in “Zarathustra.” This performance is progressively mixing former eeriness with a new, universal kind of transparency.

The subject of “Zarathustra” also has this kind of progressive value. For this subject, I think negatively on some points, and positively on other points. If I were to be particular about the subject, Ariadone no Kai fails in its expression. I was moved by the performance, but I did not feel the inevitability of it being “Zarathustra.” It may be difficult to express the subject with only women. The remnants of the former eeriness can be felt in the choice of subject. Because Ariadone no Kai already possesses the capability of creating a graceful performance.

However, on the other hand, it is apparent that “Zarathustra” is filled with the image of a dance iconic of the end of the century. As Butoh is used as a significant symbol in the chapters “The Elegance of Dance,” “The Elegance of Dance After,” and “Between the Girls of the Desert,” it cannot be denied that the theme of the dance is fascinating. Especially for the chapter “Between the Girls of the Desert,” when I read it again after seeing Ariadone no Kai's performance, I found an extremely refreshing meaning to it. There, the flow in the life of the dancing girls from the East is put in contrast with the life captured by a European intelligence. “Maidens with your voices crying, like cats filled with emotion.” And so, I am “sitting here, surrounded by sphinxes,” the dancing girls of the East. Ariadone no Kai is comprised of dancing girls from the East, and “Zarathustra" announces its death in a place beyond Europe.

Zarathustra = Phallus

Within the choreography of Ariadone no Kai, the pose in the “form of the initial charge in sumo wrestling” where they crack their knees and crouch and such are things of the East, and the difference in the movement of Bridget, possessing a body from the West, explicitly shows the Eastern nature of Ariadone no Kai by contrast. The direction by means of masterminds like Ko Murobushi and others display the depth in the expressiveness that Carlotta Ikeda and Ariadone no Kai possess in an enjoyable fashion. The circus-like atmosphere via bicycle-riding, an atmosphere reminiscent of local culture via giant, man-made cows, and the roaring downpour of coke rain. Being someone who likes tricks and mechanisms, I was thoroughly happy. It was an advance notice of Ko Murobushi’s circus-like and cabaret-like, fantasizing spectacle of an atmosphere. And what could the giant pillar, hanging in the center of the stage then suddenly standing tall, be? Could that itself be “Zarathustra = phallus”? If so, it may have been present the entire time in this performance of “Zarathustra” that had assumed me absent.

May 26, 1980

Related Work

Ariadone no kai Butoh Performance
 “Z–A 1980 Zarathustra”

Ariadone no kai Butoh Performance “Z–A 1980 Zarathustra”