“Kagemi”, the new evening-length piece by Sankai Juku, the 31-year-old Japanese Butoh company touring the US, is about mirrors, water, and a lotus leaf carpet. It is also about white light, transcendance, and the fact that a 57-year-old dancer-choreographer has moved from a young man’s angst into something more serene. There are still moments of jarring, Hiroshima-fed anxiety, when the mellow soundscore of nature sounds, synthesizer and strings gives way to techno disruption. Mostly, however, the company communicates a Zen-like demeanor. World War II was a very long time ago.
Spending an hour and a few minutes in the company of this small group of soft-footed, talcum-covered dancers is mildly hallucinogenic. The ending of "Kagemi" is as close to nirvana as any piece of theatre you’ll ever find. Witness the bows, in which the dancers uniquely sit back instead of bowing forward. They actually move away from the audience, lowering themselves in recognition of gravity as much as humility. Usio Amagatsu, the leader, lets an arm sweep like a slow-motion lariat over his head. Two of the acolytes move their palms, which wink out some kind of semaphoric ‘thank you’. The creamy light fades away.