The first performance of the first official day of L1danceFest 2015 was Ismaera Takeo Ishii's Ki Do Ai Raku, which means “Happy Angry Sad Relaxed”. During and after the performance I didn't feel all these feelings, only Ismaera. And you may ask which one did I miss? I can tell you that I didn't know the meaning of the title before, so I just sat there open minded.
|photo: Roland Szabo|
The venue was a courtyard in the Central-European University (CEU), called Japanese Garden, which is circular with a concrete terrace inside of it and an artificial platform in the middle, with pots of plants. Basil, tomato, paprika and other plants you can see and smell – next to me a big bush gives forth the scent of peppermint. It was really naturalistic despite of the big silver glass/metal surface of the building around and some staring construction workers, welcomed by the entering Ismaera. He wears purple shorts – just like Hulk, I thought – and a white lab coat – okay this is still ‘Hulky’, albeit he is before the transformation and he is still skinny. After his Japanese greeting, he sits down in the very middle of the space/the podium and immersed into himself. Dance as a path of slow metamorphosis begins.
A kind of reverse enlightment unfolds from/through the movements. He is not in trance, but you can see or think that he is searching for an inner animal or the animalistic side of the human being while looking inside. After the meditation he is shaking up there, going deeper and deeper then after a while he stands up, picks off a paprika and starts to eat it. He feeds himself – it could be a dessert, which mice win in the labyrinth, if they pass the test and find the exit. Three literary impressions came into my mind during the performance. The first was from Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, claiming mice in labs are examining us and not the opposite. And here he is, wearing this white lab coat. It hints that he is the one who is examining, but after being inspired by Adams, I must say he could also be the subject, which is examining the examiner at the same time.
Suddenly he comes down from the pedestal where he was a human after all, and now he is among us humans, behaving not so humanly. He starts to walk around in a circle – and here comes my second impression. In Rainer Maria Rilke's poem, The Panther is “trapped not so much by the bars of the cage as by what the bars compel on the panther: a concentric lope that leaves the will stupefied, narcotized”1 and this is what makes the predator see nothing from the outer world. But in this case, Ismaera is indeed watching us; his cage is his body from where he is looking out. He widens the circle and goes behind us, lies down on the ground on the grass and between branches. He doesn't cut us dead, he still knows we are here while he is ‘playing’ and moves among us just as usual. He is a human being, but an outsider in an artificial garden (a laboratory?) where we watch (perhaps examine) him. Does he do the same?
Seeing him going through the states of changing behavior, you realize that this is enforced acting, but not labored. The desire to ‘step back’ (Is it really a step – back?) and lose our human self to be not animalistic, but an animal, is desperate. Why? Because the ‘deed’ was preceded by a very conscious decision of acting. This is why the introspection is so human. This is self-analysis and self-criticism through the look of an outside eye – of an animal. The third impression refers back to the entrée, when he was speaking, demonstrating that he is a human. In Franz Kafka's A Report to an Academy, a monkey has to give a speech in front of a court to prove the same. So in Ismaera's situation, why did he speak if afterwards he tried to convince us of his inhuman being? Because of the fact that the ability of giving a speech is irreversible, meaning you already proved who you are, the aim of the statement is only to deepen the difference not between two selves in the same body, but between two possible sides of the same soul.
After the dance he heads to the elevator, which you can enter from the garden. He pushes the button and waits for the opening door. It arrives, he steps in, pushes the button and the elevator slowly goes up above us and that is the point when he goes mad in it. You can see him jerk, shuffle and ramp – the walls are made of glass. Maybe this is an improvised part, but it puts an end to the whole, an end which reminds me of the panther hypnotized by the concentric movements. The difference is that the bars are homogeneous, continuous and transparent walls now, and because the cage is smaller, you can make no progress. These circumstances increase the feeling of being enclosed in your own body, which the inner animal can never leave – even if it exists. And if it exists, it will only scratch the surface, but will never be able to come out.
P.S. Thoughts after the discussion, when I heard what is the meaning of the title: I saw Ismaera happy, angry, sad, relaxed without trying to define or give any special order to these feelings – because I think you can't, you can't separate them from each other. I want to say if e.g. a real sad situation can happen, maybe you will experience happiness in it. Me, I was happy, sad and relaxed, but I was never angry, not even when I noticed that the transformation or metamorphosis was left incomplete, because I realized, that in the end, there can’t be no catharsis.
1 J. M. Coetzee, The Lives of Animals – The Tanner Lectures on Human Values, Delivered at Princeton University, October 15 and 16, 1997, p. 147