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Toshiki Okada — "Five Days In March"

by Lori Ortiz
February 8, 2009
Japan Society
333 E. 47th St.
New York, NY 10017
chelfitsch theater company performers: Taichi Yamagata, Luchino Yamazaki, Hiromasa Shimonishi, Kohei Matsueda, Tomomitsu Adachi, Riki Takeda, Izumi Aoyagi
Leaders recently signed a Japan-Iraq partnership to build relations. Things fell into perspective when chelfitsch theater company brought "Five Days in March" to Japan Society February 5-7, 2009. The title refers to the five days after the US threatened Iraq and began air strikes on Baghdad. Japan joined the coalition with a deployment, their first since 1945. Chelfitsch director Toshiki Okada used the word kyun to describe the strong emotional response of Japanese youth. It is the only untranslated word in Aya Ogawa's English supertitles. Through storytelling and body language the performers capture the feeling of impotence.

Though events happen passively and reveal a kind of fatalism, the rambling, meandering show is oddly gripping. You don't want it to end. A couple of Generation Y or N (part-timers) retreat into a "love hotel" and agree to stay holed up for five days of sex. Later, two friends talk about it in halting speech and unexpected, exaggerated gestures, while keeping step in an anti-war march. They drag and lift their feet for a moment longer than natural, suggesting protracted shock and awe. Police surrounded the crowd.

Okada's slow, fluid dance was inspired by the 2003 mission. Butoh was born of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki but Japanese born several decades later thought of America as cool. They thought that a protest in a US city would never be under surveillance. This clashed with the reality of the Japanese supported mission. A student march ended at the US Embassy where it began to feel warlike.

"Five Days…" only props are two personal-sized plastic half-filled soda bottles. Wonderful lighting and projected graphics accentuate the choreography and draw the eye. Supertitles above clearly interpret, though the experience for a native Japanese might be totally different.

To retell the retelling of the lovers introduction, "Tell me your name," said the girl. "It doesn't have to be your real name, it can be your chat name, just so I have something to call you, though with only two people, you don't really need names." Their contracted time together depended on the contents of their wallets. The Act was a catharsis, an outlet for their kyun, and resulted in pleasure. They wanted it to go on for as long as they could afford, knowing they would need to return to the real world.

For all their anonymity, the couple shared two precious possessions, their bodies and their money. They split the hotel bill. They were on vacation, but Okada is connected to the world. His "colloquial theater" consists of hyper and fragmented verbalizations, and left-field sighs. The dancers effectively meander, list, veer, slump, or reel, managing to look completely natural. Their rocking and perseverating is dizzying and challenging, releasing them from self-consciousness, said Okada in a published interview. He observed Tokyo youth culture, but also cited Berthold Brecht, Oriza Hirata who developed theory of colloquial theater, and William Faulkner's "Absalom, Absalom!"
Rukino Yamazaki, Eiji Takigawa, Taichi Yamagata 5/07 Paris

Rukino Yamazaki, Eiji Takigawa, Taichi Yamagata 5/07 Paris

Photo © & courtesy of Thomas Bremond


Nanboku Tomiya, Soichi Murakami, 5/07 Brussels Kaaitheater Studio

Nanboku Tomiya, Soichi Murakami, 5/07 Brussels Kaaitheater Studio

Photo © & courtesy of Michele Rossignol


Shoko Matsumura, Taichi Yamagata 5/07 Kaaitheater

Shoko Matsumura, Taichi Yamagata 5/07 Kaaitheater

Photo © & courtesy of Rebecca Lee


Shoko Matsumura 5/07 Kaaitheater

Shoko Matsumura 5/07 Kaaitheater

Photo © & courtesy of Rebecca Lee

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