H Art Chaos was one of the center events at the American Dance Festival in Durham

Oshima’s singular vision

The harrowing terrain Sakiko Oshima carves out in ‘Flowers of the Bones’ starts above the stage dancer Shino Kido, dressed in a bone-white gown, harnessed above the stage motionless and then flailing around. The effect is both grotesque and beautiful, one of the visual threads that runs through this dance. Kido touches down on a smoky stage of greenish gray hues as other women drift in. Medical tables are wheeled around by dancers who keep to themselves.

The coldness and fearful images are in contrast with three mermaids on top of the table with their torsos bowing back with lyrical expression, but oscillate with sad resignation. They flick their tail and white confetti flies around them, part of spellbinding lighting design The choreography is very floaty, and in its transitions suggest time frozen, but state of being altered, muddy. Eventually all the dancers are clustered together for a group portrait. Shino ends up under surgical light on one of the slabs, her body pulling upward.

Oshima’s 1995 production of ‘The Rite of Spring’ is the marquee work of this program. Oshima immediately erases the expectations of grandeur that can accompany revisits to Stravinsky’s titanic score. Instead of a ritualized tribal tableau for a throng of dancers, we enter a drab apartment with the furniture upended and Nooko Shirakawa , the sacrifice, flailing around the room in a camisole. I resisted Oshima’s concept might seep in primarily because she took this loaded piece of narrative ballet music and scaled it to score to an interior drama of a woman in psychological crisis.

Shirakawa’s gritty performance seems so choreographically uncontrolled that inadvertent comedy pops up. She obsessively turns a lamp on and off ala Fatal Attraction and when she franticly jumps on the furniture Gilda Radnor springs to mind.

Those bits seem like filler and detract from remarkably visceral moments.
When Shirakawa emerges from the tub and executes an inverted split that keeps blooming, The emotional impact draws you so close to Oshima’s bold choreographic response to this music.