White Moon Dance Nights
Presented by AKA Dance
February 25-28 @ Young Centre for the Performing Arts
By Helen Fylactou
Celebrating the 80th anniversary of the inauguration of diplomatic relations between Canada and Japan, AKA Dance’s White Moon Dance Nights features new works from Denise Fujiwara, Matjash Mrozewski, and Keiko Ninomiya, as well as ZUKE’s Dora-nominated You see the tree, you don’t see the forest and AKA’s In a Single Bound, inspired by Japanese and North American comic book superheroes.
Fujiwara’s Lost and Found juxtaposes the Japanese dance style of Butoh with improvisational dance. Her performance began and ended with this spoken line: “They say the body never lies. But I lie all the time. And that’s the truth.” The line recognizes the internal struggle of duality — a theme followed throughout all the night’s performances. Lost and Found was both unsettling and beautiful. Keeping in fashion with Butoh, Fujiwara’s movements were at times rigid and grotesque, evoking desperation. Other movements were fluid and beautiful, transforming despair into hope. The idiosyncratic, raw movements of Fujiwara’s solo coexist with exquisite stillness. In her quiet moments, she expresses everything she needs with facial expression.
Contrasting the powerfully unsettling Fujiwara piece, Amy Hampton and Keiko Ninomiya emulate the female superheroes of Japan and Canada. In a Single Bound is the only performance of the night with live music, courtesy of DJ Gerald Belanger. The audience enjoyed the light-hearted routine of dance-fighting, becoming lively alongside Hampton and Ninomiya’s performance. Choreographed with a campy sense of humour, the piece indulged the audience with sound effects, superhero stances, and dance-and-fight sequences to the effect of cheering and laughing throughout the theatre. The two performers were in perfect unison, and had a connection that most dancers take years to find. In a choreographed knife sequence, the dancers showcased their precision and clean movement. Belanger elaborated on the story by including sound effects. Hampton and Ninomiya’s strengths are best shown in their contemporary style, plus over-the-top kicks, quick foot movements, front flips, and interweaving arm movements.
Ki wo mite Mori wo minai, translated as You see the tree, you don’t see the forest, was the most impressionistic performance. The theatre is pitch black for a few moments, when suddenly a spot light reveals a fully cloaked character. He is completely still. Suddenly his hands begin to move across his chest, and then another set of hands appear. The cloaked stranger pulls a young girl out from behind him. ZUKE (Tokyo’s Kinya Zulu Tsuruymana) and Keiko Ninomiya, both in monochromatic outfits, explore the idea of perception and dependence through seamless synchronicity. The performance, like Fujiwara’s, is in Butoh style. Weaving between slow movements and angst-filled, spastic movement, the dancers expose the complexities of relationships. Taking turns cloaking and then uncloaking each other, the dancer’s perceptions of reality are constantly changing. The beauty in this performance is the trust that you see between Tsuruyama and Ninomiya. The dancers create unusual forms, and hold their form for exaggerated periods. Both Tsuruyama and Ninomiya are fluid in their awkwardness.
As a representation of Canadian-Japanese diplomatic relations, this cross-cultural production missed its mark — but as a fantastic exploration of eclectic performance style, White Moon Dance Nights is more than worth the price of admission.