By Nathan Angelo Cruz | Web Manager
Vol. XCI No. 16
Jan. 24, 2020
There are many ways to describe the Yuko Takahashi Dance Company and Silliman University Dance Company production, “Sakura.” Yet, conventional is not one of them, as the very thought of such has long since been thrown out the window.
It is a contemporary dance; for a gross oversimplification, think ballet’s slow and deliberate movements and music but more freeform and without tutus. There is a story here, but unlike the other forms of dance, it is being told abstractly—through the movements themselves. Even so, this performance is not something that can simply be labeled as just a contemporary dance. Rather, it is not so much a performance as it is a lucid fever dream—a menagerie of genres and styles that create an impactful and memorable experience.
For it is not only memorable in its technicality and grandeur, but also in how it captures the audience to not only think, but reach down inside themselves to truly feel.
Playground of the mind
If a painter paints on their canvas and a writer writes on some paper to express themselves, then a dancer tells a story using their body, utilizing every single muscle they have to the best of their ability to color the viewers’ imagination.
This type of performance is not something one sees every day. It is of the avant-garde, something that is more abstract than concrete. Much like other works of this style, there is no single right answer to interpreting the dances, and that is what makes it simply captivating. Such is the power of the award-winning cast of dancers from the Yuko Takahashi group. Headlined by Mana Takahashi and Fusako Yamada, the group’s sheer dexterity allowed them to perform feats of incredible flexibility. Every move, performed with utmost precision, was worth hundreds of words. Every blocking on the stage formed a painting.
With each succeeding act, from the wonderfully suspense opening number of “So Young, So Dear,” with its dramatic, sudden color and staging shifts; to the whimsical and mischievous “Jinjin” with the dancers clad in kimonos—traditional dresses from Japan; the show portrayed emotions at its rawest and most primitive form. The good, the bad, the calm, the pains, and the joys of living are all there, helped in no small part by the music which enhanced the mood and gave context to what was happening on stage.
I feel, therefore I am
The etymology of the word emotion is emovere, from Latin, which means “to move out.” Hence, it is no surprise that dancing—a form of art using movement—especially in a style such as this, is closely linked with emotions, perhaps even more so than other art forms. Dancing is, essentially, emotion in motion. To dancers, the act of such can serve as an effective release of emotions. On the other hand, viewers may come to appreciate emotions and even be in touch with their own ones through watching dance.
The vast spread of emotions we feel is key to life. After all, what has helped man survive and thrive throughout the ages? Our emotions have forced us to act on what we need and want. Fear, for one, causes us to fight or flee from dangers and threats. It is because we feel for ourselves and for our fellow man that we bond. Feelings of a love of any kind, and the warmth that comes with it, push us to seek companionship with one another. This, in turn, leads to meaningful relationships that we come to cherish for the rest of our lives.
Sometimes it doesn’t really pan out that way. Eventually, we come to drift apart and lose friends who we once found near and dear to our hearts, for one reason or another. And that’s okay; that’s life. Frustrations like these, too, are very much a part of life as well. We may feel insecure in our work too and feel like we could have done better. Though, we will never quite reach it, not unlike a modern-day Sisyphus, whose boulder keeps tumbling back to the start whenever he tries to push it up the hill in vain, ad nauseam.
It’s in the many things we feel that helps make up the totality of our being human. What is interesting is not a life lived perfectly, but a life lived through the good and the bad. That is a life lived colorfully. And it is important that life is lived as such. Memento mori—the one truth that all things come to an end. Especially us.
Falling cherry blossoms
It is said that spring in Japan comes when the cherry blossoms bloom. There’s simply nothing like it, seeing droves of people gathering around in parks or gardens sitting around to watch them bloom. This picnic of sorts is known as hanami, which roughly translates to “flower-viewing.” It’s in such gatherings that promises are forged and memories are made, especially with friends and loved ones. But people gather not only because the sakura are majestic and beautiful. They are nature’s reminder that life is fleeting and ephemeral.
As the seasons come and go, the allure found in those trees soon fades away. Only after a short two-week period wherein their beauty peaks, the blossoms start to fall at an ever-so-graceful speed of five centimeters per second.
It is this transience that is captured perfectly in the final piece of the show, “Sakura Shibefuru.” It is dedicated to the late dancer Eiko Shimoda, who was known to have loved the sakura as well as have a “tremendous personality.” In making her mark on this world through her art, in the way she best could, she became in essence what she most admired.
In making the most out of our lives, in harmonizing with our emotions, we too can be like the cherry blossoms. Though life is short, it is undoubtedly sweet. We may be petals in the wind, doomed to fall. But we can be beautiful in doing so if we live our lives to the fullest, and that is what matters the most.
Photo by Francis Ryan Pabiania