An acclaimed Japanese dancer and choreographer makes his Pittsburgh debut. | Theater | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

An acclaimed Japanese dancer and choreographer makes his Pittsburgh debut.

Kota Yamazaki's (glowing) uses light to explore the tricks darkness can play.

A dancer performs an earlier work by Kota Yamazaki.
A dancer performs an earlier work by Kota Yamazaki.

In a darkened space, the mind can play tricks on you. A barely lit object may appear to be one thing when in fact it is something else.

(glowing), the latest dance work by Bessie Award-winning Japanese dancer/choreographer Kota Yamazaki, explores how visual perceptions of objects occupying the same physical space can differ.

Part of The Andy Warhol Museum's Off the Wall series, the 70-minute intermissionless (glowing) is Yamazaki's Pittsburgh debut. It will be performed April 14 at the New Hazlett Theater by his New York-based company Kota Yamazaki/Fluid hug-hug. The work was inspired by Japanese writer Jun'ichiro Tanizaki's essay "In'ei Raisan" ("In Praise of Shadows").

Yamazaki, speaking by phone from New York via interpreter and company member Mina Nishimura, says Tanizaki's essay speaks of "the heightened physical awareness and illusionary vision that was a part of life in Japan prior to the introduction of modern lighting."

The title, (glowing), also references that theme, says Yamazaki. He envisions barely perceptible or glowing light that casts mysterious shadows over objects.

"In (glowing), I am trying to capture that sense of heightened physical awareness and illusionary vision, only under bright white modern lighting," says Yamazaki.

The work, danced to an ambient original soundscape by Japanese composer Kohji Setoh, has two sections. The first , which Yamazaki calls an "outside perspective," features an international cast of six dancers from Japan, Africa and the U.S., communicating with each other using dance forms native to each region. The second section presents an "internal or more illusionary perspective" of the first section. Together, the two halves create in very bright light the effects darkness has on our visual perceptions.

The work also marks a return for Yamazaki to the use of the Japanese dance form butoh in his choreography. Yamazaki studied butoh it in his youth but has been working predominately in Western dance forms ever since.

Inspired by the post-World War II Ankoku-Butoh movement in Japan, butoh traditionally uses ultra-slow, hyper-controlled movements and is performed in white body makeup. It can however take many forms. In (glowing), Yamazaki offers up his own brand of butoh, mixing in several other dance forms including traditional African dance to create what he calls "quiet and sensitive choreography."

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