With Cryptic Austerity – Plus a Bird
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
Stasis versus frenzy. Cacophony versus silence. The Japanese stage artist Saburo Teshigawara’s “Bones in Pages,” shown over the weekend at the Lincoln Center Festival, explores these polarities and more. Like Bill T. Jones’s “Blind Date,” which was performed at the Festival last week, dance is both central and auxiliary to “Bones in Pages,” choreographed and designed by Mr. Teshigawara.
Mr. Teshigawara, who performs solo throughout most of the piece’s 55 minutes, dominates the work. He lopes, skitters, and staggers around the stage, his torso angled and his arms dangling, marionette-style. Two women, Kei Miyata and Rihoko Sato, also make appearances, and all three performers, dressed completely in black, are avatars of Japanese minimalism.
The sparse vocabulary of movement matches the stage setting, which features three planes that enclose the space, forming a kind of triptych. On stage left is a wide swale formed by scores of shoes strewn on the ground. Downstage right is a pile of books, and tiers of cylinders representing open books are embedded in most of stage right’s wall. Finally, two pairs of Lucite planes, each implanted with half of a wooden table and other bits of wood furniture, sit at right angles downstage.
At one point, Mr. Teshigawara mocks the societal fetish of interiors and accoutrements by lasciviously caressing one of the pieces of Lucite furniture. At moments, when Mr. Teshigawara rips pages from the tiers of texts and hurls them to the ground, “Bones in Pages,” suggests an epistemological quest. The swirl of shoes suggests an off-stage assemblage gathered for a ceremonial event, but it also evoked something creepy, like the grisly stockpile of concentration camp remnants. Toward the end of the piece, one of the women appears upstage at the head of the swathe of shoes, then moves downstage, hurling them at the audience, but they bounce off a scrim that separates the audience from the stage.
Ms. Miyata and Mr. Teshigawara devised the work’s musical compilation, which ranges from outdoor sounds to airport-landing-strip din to pastoral symphony. The aural selections are connected by intervals of silence.These intervals are perfectly timed and enable the evening to un-tether itself from rhythm, but don’t stretch long enough to make the audience anxious.
The lighting by Sergio Pessanha also contributed to the allure of “Bones in Pages.” Occasionally the stage went completely dark; sometimes, the lights dimmed except for cream-colored, geometric shafts highlighting one corner or plane of the stage. At the back of the stage, a trough held an array of more cylindrical volumes. One of the best scenes in “Bones in Pages,” occurred when one of the women appeared behind the trough, silhouetted against the rear wall of the set in the manner of oldfashioned stage lighting. She struck pose after pose, part siren, part crone.
“Bones and Pages,”lasts just the right length to ensure that its cryptic austerity has a strangely chastening, calming effect. Though obscure, “Bones in Pages” evokes a degree of dry humor with its inclusion of a live black crow, something of a company emblem (“KARAS,” the name of Mr. Teshigawara’s company, is the Japanese word for “crow.”). The bird is a boon companion for Mr. Teshigawara, and sometimes he seems to acknowledge its presence with fluttering arms suggesting beating wings. Occasionally, the crow sets off on breakaways around the stage, but just as frequently, it hovers protectively near Mr. Teshigawara. At times when the stage lights go out, the audience can still hear the crow’s claws tapping around the stage; it is somehow reassuring to hear the animal still clattering around, perhaps more comfortable in the darkness than in the full-intensity lighting. When the three human performers took their bows at the end of the piece, Mr. Teshigawara was appreciative enough of the bird’s contribution to bring it out for a bow of its own.