A New Style:
The Japanese dancer Saburo Teshigawara
and his dance troupe Karas
by Rachel Bell
Israeli dance goers are eager to have seen it all, but they haven't quite yet. The Japanese dancer Saburo Teshigawara and his dance troupe Karas are coming to town, bringing their spectacularly, coldly modern dance, very Japanese and yet unlike anything else Japanese that goes by the name of dance. It is not Butoh, it is not Noh, it is not Kabuki theater, it is not even like, it is not even in the same direction, in fact there is not much point of contact. And yet, the ghost of all that is Japan invades and permeates Teshigawara's brilliantly cold dance, which will be showing at Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center on May 27-31, 1999.
"I deal with quality, not only quality of motion, but also with the quality of existence, the quality of space, the quality of the body. In dance one is able to create the most different qualities. Iım just curious, curious to see, to find, I want to find fresh moments, fresh phenomenon." said Teshigawara, of his dance.
One of the unique things about dance, according to Teshigawara, is the ephemeral and powerful things that you can express with it. Diaphanous air, fleeting time, strong self-expression, great energy, the earth's gravity, boundless space, aggressiveness, power, fragility and modernity, stage landscapes, transparency and visibility, are just some of the things he explores. "I care about time, but without a watch. You can not get a hold of smoke. It always goes away. Like time, it has already passed. But you can get a hold of it...in dance." he said.
Born in Tokyo, Teshigawara is a dancer/choreographer/director. He studied classic ballet and the plastic arts, sculpting with materials that were disposable, synthetic, sometimes toxic, developing ideas about ways to express the modern world which influenced his later dance works. He began his career as a modern choreographer /dancer in 1981, when he started creating his style of dance, and started offering workshops with his theory and style of performance, which emphasized total expression of the artist, a complete involvement of self, on stage.
He formed the company KARAS in 1985 with his student Kei Miyata, who studied with him when searching for new possibilities in performing arts, after finishing her studies in English and American dramatic literature at St. Margaret's College. She now creates the collages of sound and music for his works. In 1987, Shun Ito, who now dances with the troupe and plays piano and keyboards, also joined Karas after taking a Teshigawara workshop. This is the first time that KARAS will be in Israel. "Our friend, a dancer in Frankfurt Ballet, told us that the theater is quite good and the city is very beautiful. So, we are very excited to be coming to Tel Aviv for our first time. We are also very curious and interested to know how the audience will react to our work." said Miyata. Karas sees itself as taking Japanese dance in an absolutely new direction, without imitation of existing Japanese styles. It is quite removed from the Japanese traditional or Butoh.
In 1988, when Teshigawara started creating original pieces commissioned and produced by European festivals and theaters, he himself designed the stage, costume, and light, creating his own unique world. A collaboration with TAT in Frankfurt began in 1990 and in 1992, he was invited by the Next Wave Festival in New York to perform at the opera house in the Brooklyn Academy of Music. The same year he created and performed "Noiject" in a huge warehouse in Yokohama, Japan. In this piece, the stage was covered with iron plates, and furious noise, music and dance met and merged. His concept of the 'The Physics of Dance' shocked Japanese audiences, but garnered Karas critical praise and the Tokyo Journal Innovative Performance Award, and was the start of a prolific choreography career.
According to Teshigewara, he has forgotten when he became interested in dance, but not why. "I was a painter, and I was not satisfied. I wanted to have direct contact with the material, with the living. And my own body could be this material."
He did not exactly start with the aim of becoming a dancer or even appearing on stage. His first experiments were made in private, in the mountains where he buried himself in standing position for eight hours, doing a pretty unusual type of audience-less performance art. "The performer without [a] spectator turned [in]to the classical vocabulary." said Teshigawara. "It was as if I we were learning a new language in order to create our own language. It took me ten years to finally find that language of my own."