Azul Dance Theatre/ Yuki Hasegawa
Reviewed by Janette Rawls
Azule Dance Theatre presents “Mugen,” a work fusing traditional Japanese sword fighting with American contemporary dance. Three characters dressed in Kimonos enact a captivating dance drama. A man kneels in the center of the stage while a woman clad in orange sits to his right. As he appears to meditate, a hand reaches around the man. Soon the shaved head of a woman appears in place of the hand, slowly slumping forward over his unaffected meditation. She takes a scroll from the man’s side and stealthily places it within reach of the woman in orange. A series of images carry the narrative as the man swings his sword as if in practice battle. The woman in orange seems distraught as she opens the scroll, eventually leaving the stage after a long stare at the man. The remaining woman starts to disrobe as if to reveal another character under the first layer. The man sheathes and unsheathes his sword and nearly kills her as she seeks protection behind the scroll. Slowly she takes the sword, almost killing him, but stops as the blade reaches his neck. She fades into the distance as he resumes his opening posture as if it might have been a dream. A subtle, yet intense portrayal of each character brings this work to life, making its many moments of stillness utterly captivating. Though the narrative itself is unfamiliar to this reviewer, the deep emotional commitment to the work told the story in a powerful way. The melding of sword fighting and contemporary dance could be more developed. The piece included elements of both, but for the most part they remained separate features.