In November, CNDB hosted the last part of the educational platform dedicated to Japanese dance (and its intersection with Romanian dance), initiated by Cosmin Manolescu. “Eastern Connections” began in 2013, together with (cultural manager) Ştefania Ferchedău as a closed circle of professional exchange. A month ago, CNDB, Replik Center and other Bucharest alternative spaces hosted a series of events dedicated to (re)presenting Japanese dance under the Eastern Connections umbrella. Along with workshops, movie screenings, and talks, the event also included two shows under the common name of Japanese choreographer and performer Zan Yamashita: “NAMAEGANAI/There is no name” (artistic directing: Zan Yamashita, performer: Kim Itoh) and “The kite/What is contemporary dance?” (artistic direction: Cosmin Manolescu, performers: Zan Yamashita, Cosmin Manolescu).
Actively working as a choreographer and performer in Kyoto, Zan Yamashita works with experimental dance shows in which he transgressively questions immediate reality. He checks the world through his personal performative filter that holds many, often surprising, observations that he brings to the audience as a moving visual montage. NAMAEGANAI / There is no name”, choreographed by Zan, appropriates the language and some habits of the surreal: the dancer-house painter is performing within a minimal setup that has been carefully built to its very last visual detail. The dance is focused, as if translating into movement the tension of a political discourse that was left in the background.
I found Zan Yamashita’s presence on stage to be very captivating as a performer in Cosmin Manolescu’s “The kite / What is contemporary dance?”. The show begins with a playful moment in which the public is invited on stage. It is an anti-passivity and non-conformist move, where the spectator easily becomes part of the performance (if they feel like it). The stage was full of people that were moving about as if hypnotized, children in adult bodies, smiling while fixating the kites’ dances. Zan’s presence was very distinct on the crowded stage, his free body modeling spontaneous and expressive choreographic moves that appeared to be straight out of anime. He easily slips, freely, he contorts himself in a series of closed movements, filled with emotions and expressivity… butoh. The performance carried on in a cheerful manner, spontaneous and natural. The concept of butoh (larger than the dance itself or its specific exorcizing) is a subtle nuance that brings Zan Yamashita and Cosmin Manolescu together. Yamashita has been experimenting with butoh in his formative years, later evolving towards experimentation. Cosmin Manolescu found him when he already established himself in the experimental area. After a butoh workshop, Cosmin Manolescu begins his Japanese adventure. Does he practice it? It remains to be seen, but for now he is affirming it and presenting it. Smoothly. Solos-duos-solos, photos or phrases in motion that highlight the physical and focusing on the cultural differences between the two performers. Exotic. The European dance is repetitive, the Japanese dance is expressive. Issues raised as a result of duo’s engagement, with the two being marked by different cultures, with different artistic languages, but with similar researches and convergent interests.
Cosmin Manolescu askes a hard question right in the show’s title, sets out a challenge that generates a series of questions: What is contemporary dance? Is The Kite a manifesto type of show? When personal experience is translated into an opera through a work process that involves reflection and spontaneity, it touches multiple narrative structures: the fascination with traveling, the revelation of discovery, cultural (and mental) differences. Butoh. And the political discourse, words thrown around like rare spices in regulated doses. The feeling of a work-in-progress. The perpetually implied and sometimes expressed dissatisfaction within the show crosses from the general political dysfunctionalities to the particular insecurities of contemporary artists: “I believe there are multiple questions regarding what’s happening to me, the state of dance in Romania, the state of the cultural sector, things that worry me. I am going through a pessimistic phase at the moment, and I feel that, in Romania, when it comes to culture, and the performing arts sector in particular, instead of improving, our situation got worse, a process of inhibition if you will, where few spectators come to our shows, a series of problems that, after, say, 15 years of intensely working in this field, made me question some aspects.” (Cosmin Manolescu)
„NAMAEGANAI (no name)” [JP], artistic direction: Zan Yamashita, performer: Kim Itoh
„the kite/ or What is contemporary dance?” [RO-JP], artistic direction: Cosmin Manolescu, performers: Zan Yamashita, Cosmin Manolescu. Accompanied by the premiere of the documentary film: „What is contemporary dance?” by Tania Cucoreanu & Cosmin Manolescu and an open discussion on 13.11.2015.
Valentina Iancu (b. 1985) is a writer with studies in art history and image theory. Her practice is hybrid, research-based, divided between editorial, educational, curatorial or management activities ...