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Constructing with Light

When Saboru Teshigawara was last in the Lincoln Center Festival with Bones in Pages (2006), the set was a huge part of the performance. A wall of wooden cubbies, thick books with their pages fanned out, shards of glass. It seemed that the theatrical setting was every bit as important as the three performers. (Four, if you count the raven.) So it came as a surprise to see that Miroku (which ran last week as part of Lincoln Center Festival) employed no set, and also that it was a solo for Teshigawara. It wasn’t a question of whether this respected performance artist would take command of the theater with such minimalist elements, but how?

Saboru Teshigawa in MirokuThe elaborate lighting was key. Designed by the choreographer (who also did the varied sound with Neil Griffiths and Kei Miyata), it ranged from a dangling, manipulated bare bulb to make shadow puppets, to straightforward spot and focused lights, to creating architectural constructs with myriad projected rectangles of blue. In one version, it appeared to be a wall made of huge blocks of ice. Other versions, with horizontal sections partly lit, hinted at the arctic sky, or being deep underwater. Still other iterations had the state-of-the-art light grids flash vertical segments sequentially, very quickly.

Despite vying for attention with the lighting for much of the hour, Teshigawara’s precise movement held the eye. It largely avoids describing anything specific, and is unconnected to classical or familiar vocabularies. At times, he withdrew into his body, and at others, he opened up, releasing all his stored energy. And yet each mode — jittery, lyrical, heroic, feral — seems to allude to some archetypal emotional or physical state of being. Evoking psychologically and materially universal states of being in the Time Warner mall — now that’s magical.

Image: Saboru Teshigawa in Miroku. Photo by Stephanie Berger.

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SundayArts is made possible in part by First Republic Bank and by the Rubin Museum of Art. Funding for SundayArts is also made possible by Rosalind P. Walter, The Paul and Irma Milstein Foundation, The Philip & Janice Levin Foundation, Elise Jaffe and Jeffrey Brown, Jody and John Arnhold, and The Lemberg Foundation. This program is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council. Additional funding provided by members of THIRTEEN.

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