Sankai Juku, Hibiki

Review in Issue 13-2 | Summer 2001

A spellbinding vision Hibiki certainly was. But it was more than just a vision. The piece takes the audience on a zen-like journey from birth to death and back again. It begins with a huge purple cyclorama slowly closing in on four performers, leaving the back of the stage black as the performers lie numb and still in the centre. Water drips into huge lens-like glass saucers placed around the caramel coloured stage. The music is catastrophic, end of the world. Then the performers very, very slowly uncurl like lotus flowers. The image is simple and mesmerising, Birth has begun.

The male dancers take on a feminine quality as the music changes to piano melodies. They dance not in synchronisation but together, implicitly individual and free – yet tied together with a strength of spirit rare to see and utterly compelling. Then one man, standing utterly alone: Ushio Amagatsu. With one hand movement he can conjure the world. Whole nations, whole histories flash across my eyes. The music breaks the pattern, the lighting cuts the calm and we see all the men (clothed in white dresses corseted with red lace) rush around one of the glass saucers now intense with red blood. There is a kind of stylised gushing of blood from the performers into the glass bowl. They worship and move to a harsh jarring rhythm, mouths writhing in pain.

We are then left once again with one man alone. The aftermath of war. The calm after the destruction and there walks a man, skeletal and surviving, Hiroshima, Auschwitz, Kosovo, Rwanda, to name but a few. Two men meet. The light crosses. Silence. There is a thin layer of sand on the floor – the dust of destruction. Slowly begins the recovery. The bodies once again begin to move. They move again with the mesmerising energy of enlightened men. The screen at the back slowly begins to open out, the light comes flooding in. The optimism and joy of light. The worship of light. The performers once again curl to the floor and the cycle begins again.

Presenting Artists
Presenting Venue
Date Seen
  1. Mar 2001

This article in the magazine

Issue 13-2
p. 28