Pathos With Kokoro at the RoundhouseThursday, September 21, 2017
|Krzysztof Kieslowski & Billy Marchenski (it could be Jay?)|
Pathos (/ˈpeɪθɒs/, US: /ˈpeɪθoʊs/; plural: pathea; Greek: πάθος, for "suffering" or "experience"; adjectival form: 'pathetic' from παθητικός) represents an appeal to the emotions of the audience, and elicits feelings that already reside in them. Pathos is a communication technique used most often in rhetoric (where it is considered one of the three modes of persuasion, alongside ethos and logos), and in literature, film and other narrative art.
Rarely do I see seriously sad stuff in modern dance or ballet. In fact in most of modern dance and ballet, dancers are told to smile. For me that one ballet full of pathos is Romeo and Juliet with the music of Prokofiev. I have been lucky to see this danced twice by Evelyn Hart.
There is a moment full of emotion and sadness when Hart as Juliet approaches the vial of liquid that is supposed to put her in a catatonic state of sleep. She dances to it gingerly then en pointe she patters back with uncertainty. This is wonderful. Wonderful as sometime we need pathos in order to switch to the happy. Melancholy is a small dosis can be a pleasant experience.
Or I would compare Butoh to punk music, a reaction to happy and predictable pop with long guitar solos.
Butoh (舞踏 Butō) is a form of Japanese dance theatre that encompasses a diverse range of activities, techniques and motivations for dance, performance, or movement. Following World War II, butoh arose in 1959 through collaborations between its two key founders Hijikata Tatsumi and Ohno Kazuo. The art form is known to "resist fixity" and be difficult to define; notably, founder Hijikata Tatsumi viewed the formalisation of butoh with "distress". Common features of the art form include playful and grotesque imagery, taboo topics, extreme or absurd environments, and it is traditionally performed in white body makeup with slow hyper-controlled motion. However, with time butoh groups are increasingly being formed around the world, with their various aesthetic ideals and intentions.
Kokoro’s almost 75 minute work Embryotrophic Cavatina had a special relevance for me. The work is dedicated to former Kokoro dancer Michael Whitfield who died in 2013. But the music, Zbigniew Preisner’s Requiem or my Friend was composed after the death of noted Polish cinematographer Krzysztof Kieslowski whom I met a few years before he died. The man wasn’t exactly a happy man. When he posed for me he did not even hint at a smile.
Attempting to understand the intricacies of Butoh movements and facial expressions might be daunting. But this is not so if you just sit, watch and be moved by feelings expressed by the dancers. In the case of this work they are Jay Hirabayashi, his partner Barbara Bourget, Billy Marchenski and Molly McDermott.
Butoh involves lots of slow movement with bent knees. This is gruelling. At first the dancers explode into puffs of white as their special body coating floats into the air. Soon the sweat stops that action and you can see the strain of a dance that rarely is fast.
Hirabayashi who is 70 and Bourget (who must not be too far from that age) show extreme resilience. Marchenski, a very tall and very muscled man (as fit as his partner Alison Denham) and McDermott with her beautiful red hair (not shaved as Bourget’s red hair!) had the right soft expression on her face to compensate for the others who at only one spot did I notice a big smile from Hirabayashi.
The lighting by Gerald King, mostly blue, put me in that nice but melancholy mood. Tsuneko Kokubo’s projected images and costumes (for the second half where Kokoro dancers were uncharacteristically not undraped) went well with the lighting design. The costumes were dresses that showed (coincidental?) a likeness to the program cover designed by Hirabyashi’s ex-wife Alix Hirabayashi (who happened to be sitting right next to me.)
Preisner composed his work to be performed live. The music was not live but the presence of the dancers gave the work all that pathos and a sense of loss for the death of a good friend.
I went to the September 20 performance.
I went to the September 20 performance.