Extreme contrast in striking images ****

from: Trouw 17/6/2013

Nicole Beutler likes to speak of ‘Gesamtkunstwerken’ when she talks about her work. She weaves all ingredients that the choreographer has at her disposal into an intelligent construction of sensory experience. For the dance concert ‘Shirokuro’ she started a cooperation with Jean Kalman and pianist Tomokoya Mukaiyama. By choosing the last, Beutler made it herself a little easier than in previous work. Because Mukaiyama, known in the dance for among others her work with Jirí Kylián, is already a movement. Even stronger, Mukaiyama’s performance of the sixth piano sonata of the Russian composer Galina Oestvolskaja (1919-2006) in ‘Shirokuro’ is an explosion of expression.

The stage has been wrapped in darkness, a grand piano placed in the middle. Tomoko Mukaiyama resembles a spider in the way she tigers onto the stage in the twilight, only lit by some scattered fluorescent lights. In that diffused light and with her long black wig she looks like a phantom from a Japanese horror film, frightful and in a weird way arousing. When she sits down at the grand piano she does so with her bare back towards us, in bright backlight through which we can only see the outlines of her figure. And then she starts to play Oestvolskaja’s madly radical work, that consists out of immensely loud and massive clusters of sound that keep repeating. Oestvolskaja was called ‘the lady with the hammer’ by Elmer Schönberger. We also clearly see the words of Reinbert de Leeuw, who as one of the most prestigious interpreters of Oestvolskaja’s music once said: “The music of Oestvolskaja requires an intensity that you physically almost cannot produce.”

Speaking of: Mukaiyama throws her entire body into the piano, hammers with fists on the keys, like the devil himself is after her. But after some time, in an exquisite musical and theatrical counterweight, the ferocious notes make place for the romantic music of Robert Schumann. Almost etheric in lyrical splendour – a bigger contrast is not imaginable. And also a sort of antithesis of Mukaiyama herself proceeds on stage, in the person of Mitchell Lee van Rooij, ex-dancer of Scapino Ballet Rotterdam, who in his white blouse looks a bit like a lantern on water. Slowly his movements become stronger and he mills into the room as if he is trying to absorb Mukaiyama’s piano playing.

When Mukaiyama loosens herself from the piano and finally meets Lee van Rooij in a duet, the pair is a yin-yang sign in the flesh, light and dark, each other’s indispensable opposites. ‘Shirokuro’ means ‘white and black’ in Japanese. The biggest opposites you can have in life, are, full of spiritual references, at the centre of ‘Shirokuro’. The lighting of Jean Kalman, known for his collaboration with opera director and Holland festival director Pierre Audi, follows a path that has also been paved with extremes. From a dark night we go to a golden dawn, dim becomes clear. With every change the stage is turned into a new, different, mysterious landscape, with as apotheosis a rain of ash of black particles and a, literally, overwhelming scenic image as finale. These images are overtly brilliant, but maybe a little too aesthetic, compared to the primal scream that arises from Oestvolskaja’s music and the intuitive ‘flow’ in Lee van Rooij’s dance.

Despite this little point of critique, you experience ‘Shirokuro’ as an intense love affair in which the partners music, dance and design drive each other to extremes, creating something beautiful. Sometimes loving, sometimes kinky, sharp and then soft again. If this sounds like an ideal relationship, ‘Shirokuro’ is the ideal performance.

© Sander Hiskemuller