Dance lacks exploration

While the leaps and movement qualities of many dancers often are compared to birds in flight, few have come as close to flying as H. Art Chaos’ flock of female dancers Tuesday night at GW’s Marvin Center Theater.

In Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring,” the Japanese dance company performed an aerial dance by dangling from ropes. Through precise and calculated movements – along with a strong faith in physics – the company swooped and glided on and around chairs also suspended from above.

Lead dancer Naoko Shirakawa twirled furiously from her rope like an ice skater without the friction of the ice to slow her down. Later, she soared out and over the audience, reaching out to them imploringly.

This latest interpretation of a familiar classic is just one in a series of re-examined works by artistic director and choreographer Sakkiko Oshima. Her other modernized classics include “The Little Mermaid,” “Swan Lake” and “Romeo and Juliet.”

Her newest work, “Abyss,” began with prospects in lighting, costume and set design. Yushi Takeuchi’s lighting created interesting effects with the use of flashlights, shadows and props to direct the eye. The use of props in both pieces held much potential but failed only because their use seemed unexplored and at times too safe and calculated.

With tattered set pieces resembling windows or dressing screens, an angular, staccato movement style and a trio with shaven heads and clown white faces, “Abyss” degenerated from meditative and intellectual to Asian theatrical dance Butoh meets Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.”

Both “Rite of Spring” and “Abyss” were marked by intensely physical movement illustrating anxiety, exhaustion and despair. Shirakawa’s lithe and limber body added to the sense of being stretched beyond one’s limits.

Oshima’s choreography is stimulating in its intent, but static in its lack of exploration in character, movement and use of the objects on stage. The potential was there, but the possibilities were not fully explored.

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