ShareThis Page
Japanese troupe places equal value on dance, staging |

Japanese troupe places equal value on dance, staging

| Sunday, October 3, 2004 12:00 a.m

To understand Pappa Tarahumara …

On second thought, forget the understanding part. When the curtain goes up Friday on the U.S. premiere of “Ship in a View,” literal understanding will be left to cool its heels in the lobby of the Byham Theater.

To open its 35th season, the Pittsburgh Dance Council gives the audience an unreality check, courtesy of a surreal and singular artists collective from Tokyo, Japan.

“They were rehearsing their new piece in the state theater in Tokyo,” says Dance Council executive director Paul Organisak. “They showed 15 or 20 minutes of their new piece. I said, ‘Who is this company• What do I have to do to see more of their work and get them here?'”

The performance is also part of the International Festival of Firsts.

Pappa Tarahumara is a highly theatrical Japanese collective that affords equal importance to set design, video, architecture, music and dance. An “object designer” populates the stage with brightly colored bits of installation art. Former television director Hiroshi Koike, who founded Pappa Tarahumara in 1982, writes, directs and choreographs the productions.

“Ship in a View,” which repeats Saturday, uses impressionistic sea imagery as well as choral music and futuristic lighting effects. A large, broken mast dominates the stage. A woman with long flowing black hair sings a keening lullaby as she bends over a broken bicycle.

“The Music Man” it ain’t.

“He creates an environment and world where you’re not quite sure where you are during the 100 minutes,” Organisak says. “When I first saw it, I thought ‘Are people on a shipwreck• Are they in a town?’ You might wonder why the guy is sitting eating an apple or why the guy builds a hut using a hundred pairs of shoes. But it all sort of builds to some kind of whole.”

According to production notes, Pappa Tarahumara endeavors to “liberate themselves from meaning,” an aesthetic that echoes the manifesto of the man who indirectly gave Pappa Tarahumara its name, 19th-century French author, playwright and painter Antonin Artaud. A onetime member of the Surrealist movement, Artaud argued for theater that spoke a poetic and imagistic language free of literal syntax. In essays titled “The Theater of Cruelty” and “No More Masterpieces,” he espoused anti-intellectual theater that was not in thrall to the spoken word.

Hiroshi Koike named Pappa Tarahumara after Artaud’s writings on the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico.

Pittsburgh audiences may see a kinship with Nibroll and dumb type, two Japanese performance collectives that performed here last year. The Japanese approach is more akin to performance art than traditional dance, says Peter Kope of Attack Theatre, who toured Japan in 2002 with Nibroll.

“You can’t look at it in the same way you look at a traditional dance companies in America,” says Kope, who saw a Pappa Tarahumara rehearsal in Tokyo during the tour.

“The parameters are much more broadly defined,” Kope says of the Japanese performance aesthetic. “There is equal value placed on the visual aspect, the costuming aspect, the staging. Everything carries a much greater weight.”

Of the dancers, he says, “They are really physical. That was really exciting. It’s incredibly disciplined as far as their technique. They just really go to town.

“This company is about allowing room for the audience to join in,” he says. “It’s definitely not easy, because it’s an Eastern sensibility. They’re a really warm company. I can’t wait to see it.”

Additional Information:


Pappa Tarahumara

8 p.m. Friday and Saturday

Admission: $20-$40

Where: Byham Theater, Downtown

Details: (412) 456-6666

Categories: News
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.