KVT’s January Briefs… Oh What a Company!… Nibroll!

KVT’s January Briefs… Oh What a Company!… Nibroll!

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KVT 2015

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Thanks to The Japan Foundation we got a free performance of an arts company and a performance that was totally superb.

In February I’ll be attending performances and exhibitions at a couple of important, international art festivals but I doubt that I’ll see much that can topple Nibroll as being my most memorable and involving art experience of 2016.

If Nibroll succeeded superbly within the fairly difficult constraints of Hanoi’s Youth Theater then I can imagine how much of a WOW factor it would be in a modern, contemporary dance space

Nibroll is difficult to categorize because original music composer, sound designer, set designer, costume designer, visual video arts designers work in collaboration with choreographer and get equal billing… so I guess it’s a total art experience… AND A BRILLIANT ONE AT THAT. I’d label it an installation though others would use concert, or dramatic stage play, or art exhibition, even photographic theater.

I wonder how it would interact with an audience if done as theater in the round? Or as a 60-minute promenade performance in an art gallery? BRILLIANTLY I expect.

Made into an all enveloping video piece that bounced off walls it would also be an overwhelming. Immersive experience

Nibroll has been around since 1997 under the choreographic direction of Mikuni Yannaihara and has gained an international reputation. It seems to have its roots in Butoh and gives a message that is sometimes bewildering but is always raw and direct and is theater of protest.

One scholar describes Butoh as being ever changing and is here to stay because it gives us a halted, reverberating picture of our muted struggle to be human in this technological age of the disenfranchised body which fits exactly the stated aim of Nibroll’s presentation of “REAL REALITY”

“People use technologies that allow them to move as little as possible.
I have no quarrel with these technologies, which make life easier for all.
But when the body is omitted to this extent, it is a little unsettling.
Our imagination tries to bring occurrences of the distant past and times from the past or future to the front of our minds, as if they were actually here in the present.
Nevertheless, people cannot even imagine the tragedies of long ago, and cannot share the bodies which experienced them.
We stand at places that are empty, spend time that is not real, listen to voices without speech, and encounter people without bodies.
Death is right before us, unlimited, and decisive. Life is here and now, limited, and with an uncertain future.
The work explores corporeality that can be really felt by us who live in an age in which the body is no longer needed.”

One famous Butoh troupe starts its performance by lowering dances dangling on ropes in fetal position from high above the stage. Nibroll begins by projecting videos of its individual dancers on separate screens hung (as in executed) on ropes. These projections open come to life, briefly, and make disjointed statements before elapsing into the horrific executed state. A jolting start to any show

Throughout the performance the video projections stream over the stage in binary script, in abstract patterns, in vivid colors using moveable screens

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Sound hits you from all directions, sometimes sneaking up and sometimes throttling you

Company composer is Skank and in the latter half of the performance his threnody, voiced by two voices-soprano and tenor, is even more sadly and dramatically spine tingling than the Lento e Largo from Gorecki’s ‘Symphony of Sorrowful Songs’ where a soprano voices words scrawled on a cell wall in Auschwitz by a 17 year old girl prisoner, tortured and later gassed by the Nazis

As Skank’s wonderful music is taken over from the voices by instruments, the performers on stage seem to be delivering a prolonged and agonizing, wordless elegy to the sad state of our world as black rags descend from on high and are piled onto a coffin like cart, pushed and pulled by the dancers and that, to me, seemed to be a visual simile to the death carts that patrolled the streets during medieval plagues and where the voices that echoed off alley wall intoned ’bring out your dead’. Or, more closely to the performers’ cultural heritage, death carts that roamed the streets of Nagasaki or Hiroshima after their nuclear devastation. Or perhaps the more modern equivalent in Syrian streets in cities that are being mercilessly bombarded and where modern media technology reduces the corporeality of human bodies into colaterality. Or perhaps cities being enveloped in carcinogenic smog…

But, then, I’ve got an easily stimulated imagination and could go on simile-izing until hell freezes over, or is awash in melted Arctic ice.

Nibroll’s human performers are brilliant too. Able to move expressively, to mime, to use their voices. The Vietnamese performer perched on a tower overlooking the performance area – abstractedly discarding the fripperies we are ceaselessly exhorted to surround ourselves with (before they are superseded by yet more appealing and desirable stuff) – must have been thrilled to be chosen to work with his exceptional group of artists

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At times chaotic, at times slow and trance like, at times anarchistic, “REAL REALITY” was never less than perfect art and perfect theater

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Any Hanoi-an involved in theater, dance, music composition or any aspect of the visual arts who missed out on getting seats in the packed out theater should storm the Japan Foundation ticket distribution office if ever Nibroll invades the city again.

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Two brilliant Japanese performance companies in one week, both for free… Living in Hanoi has many advantages.

FOOTNOTE: All images taken from internet… I would never be so crass to take photos during a performance

Kiem Van Tim is a keen observer of life in general and the Hanoi cultural scene in particular and offers some of these observations to the Grapevine. KVT insists that these observations and opinion pieces are not critical reviews. Please see our Comment Guidelines / Moderation Policy and add your thoughts in the comment field below.

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