Sankai Juku, Kinkan Shonun / Toki

Review in Issue 21-1 | Spring 2009

Classic butoh by the master Sankai Juku company at Sadler’s Wells: Kinkan Shonun is from 1978, while Toki is relatively recent (2005). To watch Sankai Juku is to be immersed in a wholly other world. A world that is visually stunning, filled with stylised movements, hidden meanings, hierarchy and ritual.

Kinkan Shonun saw the emaciated semi-naked dancers go through a series of seven scenes. Highlighted images rise out of a sea of dark strange dreams, where one felt that everything should make sense, but nothing does: a soldier, dishevelled, dusty, conjuring pictures of desolation and war, playing between rigid machine-like movements and intense softness, manically eats sand; four masked men with half-destroyed faces wind across the stage in sinuous homo-erotic movements; two dancers wrestling tenderly move up and down, open mouths a few inches apart; a stunted dwarf-like figure, smiling, moving across the stage as though doing a clown routine; a peacock (live) is danced with and released (and remains, wandering aimlessly and ignored, on stage the whole show).

After a while it takes a lot of concentration to stay with it, and when the fabulous ending image comes, a man hanging upside down from a red triangle against a blue background with six bowed figures in front, it is a great relief!

In Toki, which featured a visually stunning set of pillars, the ritualistic element was heightened. The master Ushio Agamatsu’s solo, with its cramped supplicating repetitive gestures had a beautiful ending as a wave of cloth followed him off stage, an image worthy of the great Lindsay Kemp.

Presenting Artists
Presenting Venue
Date Seen
  1. Nov 2008

This article in the magazine

Issue 21-1
p. 29