"When at the beginning of summer, thunder comes rushing forth from the earth again, and the first thunderstorm refreshes nature, a prolonged state of tension is resolved. Joy and relief make themselves felt. So too, music has power to ease tension within the heart.
The enthusiam expresses itself involuntary in a burst of song, in dance and rhythmic movements of the body. In the Temple men drew near to God with music and pantomimes. Out of this later the theatre developed."
_The I Ching, Hexagram YU
Photo: Sankai Juku Dancer, Semimaru. Florencia Guerberof ©2018
Even though nowadays ancient ritual practices have become secular, stylized and turned into art forms, we consider that it is extremely important to rescue them as they bear elements that are essential to today’s theatre.
Asian Culture has a peculiar way of dealing with time. The Japanese word “Ma” is a term that represents the space between things. In conversation, it is the pause between words, in music, the silence between phrases and in dance, stillness. Duration, silence and stillness are essential elements of the art of subtlety where the smallest detail creates an extremely powerful effect.
In the body of the Asian performer, the energy emerges from the center of the body and resonates through it. The legs are spread like roots absorbing the energy from the ground. The feet are connected to the earth. In Indian dance and dramas, the gaze has a crucial role. From a determined way of looking, a particular movement flourishes. Delicate changes such as those of the eye movements or those of the flying hands create mesmerizing effects.
Artaud describes “a great metaphysical fear which is at the root of all ancient theatre*”. In the spectacle of the Balinese theater, the actors appear in their spectral aspect and are seen in a hallucinatory perspective. “A kind of terror seizes us at the thought of these mechanized beings, whose joys and griefs seem not their own but at the service of age-old rites, as if they were dictated by superior intelligences.” He distinguishes “ the Oriental theater of metaphysical tendencies, as opposed to the Occidental theater of psychological tendencies”.
We seek to study Asian ancient rituals in depth, comparing their diverse rhythms and points in common. It is also our intention to put these old Asian forms in relation to today's Western contemporary dance and theatre practices. In this way, we hope that Asian and Western art forms will feed each other creatively.
Along with dance and theatre training, these sessions are accompanied by screenings and talks about the sacred legends from where Asian theatre originates. We focus on the mythology, literature and the religious and philosophical concerns behind this type of representations.
Rather than just merely follow the established conventions of the Asian folklore, we pursue a more challenging approach where these forms are compared, combined and integrated within a contemporary context. From this project, we expect a new form of contemporary theatre will flourish.
*Artaud, “The Theatre and its double”.