Project Fukurow

August 25, 2005

Project Fukurow in
Photo by Haruhisa Yamaguchi, courtesy Jacob’s Pillow

Project Fukurow
Doris Duke Studio Theatre, Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, Becket, MA

August 25–28, 2005

Reviewed by Theodore Bale


Fukurow Ishikawa’s unsettling Ozma finds its impetus in the choreographer’s experience of loneliness. In program notes he distinguishes between being stranded in the middle of a desert and “ . . . loneliness that occurs in your mind even when millions of people are around.”

For the U.S. premiere (excerpts were shown previously at The Japan Society in New York and Bates College Dance Festival), Ishikawa juxtaposed five dancers with small, handmade robots. The result is a desolate yet intriguing landscape that often drives the viewer into daydreaming. It’s also full of strange surprises. Ishikawa arranged the movement into loop statements rather than linear events. Just before boredom sets in, something unexpected occurs. His style is a unique blend of sustained butoh, swift release-based phrases, and martial arts virtuosity. But there is unrelenting stillness in Ozma, and although at first the dance seems too long, the length and distortion of time are ultimately its most vital attributes.

Christophe Charles’ enigmatic sound montage began with long, sustained low frequencies interspersed with bells. A large, rusted armchair wrapped in surgical gauze faced upstage; on it was projected a mass of crawling spiders. As the resonant sounds became deafening, the chair turned slowly to reveal dancer Tetsuo Sanari bound in the gauze, his face and upper body pressed against the corroded surface. The scene evoked a ritualized execution.

A battered wooden table floated onto the stage carrying an 18-inch-long mummy figure sporting a black mohawk. The mummy began to bend its knees intermittently, as if it were trying to come to life. Freed by a woman who appeared from behind the chair, Sanari delivered a flashy solo filled with barrel turns, flips, dives to the floor, and breakdancing. In a recurring gesture, he raised a trembling hand, then stilled it with the other.

A Turkish march played and Sanari, caught in a stilted military maneuver, headed for the wings, with the mummy marching with him. This image—following a horizontal path from one side to the other—characterizes the rest of the dance.

In the nine vivid scenes that followed, Ozma became a haunting parade of humans and robots headed toward uncertainty. Sanari wrestled with a wooden propeller; four women strangled themselves; three centipede-like robots (looking like Erector Set creations) encircled Sanari ominously.

In natural history, species are not only interdependent, but the activities of one are known to give birth to another. Ishikawa’s vision of the future in Ozma provokes because his robots have intent, power, and most disturbingly, evident souls. See