May 28, 2020
In 空Ku, the former Hamburg Ballet dancer now freelance choreographer Yuko Oishi has a dance of compelling intensity. It is a work of many textures, different scenes almost feeling like paintings brought to life. While it is possible to find meaning in some sections, there is no narrative, no end-to-end plot; just dancers’ bodies moving poetically in a dreamlike atmosphere.
That it is a difficult work to get a handle on is perhaps no surprise. Oishi takes her inspiration from Japanese culture and in particular the concept of ‘ku’, which is a difficult notion to express in words, but that tends to express the indescribable, the miracle of life and the mysteries of our world. As Oishi has said, the importance is not that the movement is beautiful, although it is startlingly so, but that it resonates within its context and with those watching.
Symbolising man is Fabrice Gallarague, who is confronted with fleeting moments from humankind’s existence. As we follow him on what feels like a journey, he crosses the path of a dragon in white, Lisa Cano, and a being personifying light, Jaym O’Esso. Oana Cojocaru represents purity, also in white, but a figure of almost childlike innocence that moves with a joyful spring and who can be read as the inner child that we all have and who runs around and giggles.
They are supported by the superb corps who are pulled by the various forces. At the beginning and driven on by taiko drumming, they circle and surround Gallarague, pointing at him as if he is some sort of ‘chosen one’. They dance with giant bamboo poles before, and in a particularly dark scene, they kneel in a line. Wrists held as if bound behind their backs, they fall as if executed one by one. Sone after, they writhe as a group, silently screaming.
As the drumming gives way to Arvo Part’s Fratres, it’s as if Gallarague is the only survivor. A sense of serenity replaces the darkness as the work takes on a spiritual feel, a mood magnified by the cathedral like setting, and by figures in wide-brimmed hats very slowly passing through in the distance. The elfin and bright-faced Cojocaru later adds a sprightly feel as things lighten, before closing the work by blowing the audience a kiss, a very appropriate way for the company to say ‘goodbye’ for now.
Going back to the programme note, ‘What is ku?’ it asks. The answer is that it’s inaccessible and can’t be shared but something that we know exists when it is felt. 空Ku, the dance, is certainly felt. A beautiful and rather moving way to round off what has been a superb, always interesting BBL At Home season.
空Ku can be watched at www.bejart.ch until May 31, 2020.