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Friday, July 27, 2007

'KORPER'

'Human maggots in a glass'


Dance fans could be excused for, well, dancing in the streets thanks to the fancy footwork of Saitama Arts Theater in luring some of the world's best contemporary troupes to its stage made famous as the home base of international theater titan Yukio Ninagawa.

News photo
Sasha Waltz's cast in "Korper" get all twisted up. © BERND UHLIG

Hot on the heels of sellout shows courtesy of world-famous Belgians Jan Fabre and Jan Lauwers, the latest terpsichorean treat from SAT features the German choreographer Sasha Waltz, who, with partner and artistic adviser, Jochen Sandig, heads the Berlin-based Sasha Waltz & Guests company. The group will be performing her renowned 2000 work "Korper (Bodies)" in Saitama on July 28-29, then in Otsu on Aug. 4.

Forty-four-year-old Waltz studied dance in Amsterdam and New York before being surprisingly catapulted into the role of co-artistic director (with theater director Thomas Ostermeier) of Berlin's esteemed Shaubuhne am Lehniner Platz theater in 1999. The decision to appoint two cutting-edge young artists to such a lofty position sent waves of excitement through the European theater world, and ensured Waltz's career would be closely watched.

She did not disappoint. "Korper" was the first staging she created in the job she would hold until resigning in 2004 to start her own dance company.

As the first element of Waltz's so-called "body-conscious trilogy" (which also comprises 2000's "S" and "Nobody" from 2002), "Korper" has now been staged more than 150 times all over the world.

Widely hailed as a "post-Pina Bausch masterpiece," it is famed for its open stage with a 10-meter-high transparent wall against which all 13 dancers, somehow occupying the entire height as if defying gravity, press their bodies and writhe like human maggots in a glass.

Describing this remarkable vision, Alice Bain wrote in the London-based Guardian: "It's nude heaven featuring Lucian Freud's fleshly, softfolded meat, Breugel's hellish medieval souls, the smooth marble pietas of the renaissance, the bodies of science — all rolling together in a slow motion. A whole civilization's worth of body beautiful cropping up in one image."

Audiences in Japan won't be the first to behold the otherworldly — but emphatically human — forms behind the wall, and think of themselves and others on the wall's "real" side.

"Korper" (4,000-6,000 yen yen; tel. [048] 858-5511) runs July 28-29 at Saitama Arts Center in Saitama City. The venue is a short walk from Yonohonmachi Station on the JR Saikyo Line. For information, visit saf.or.jp It then plays Aug. 4 at Biwako Hall in Otsu, Shiga Prefecture (4,000-6,000 yen yen; tel. [077] 523-7136).



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