Dance and Music Reviews : A <i> Butoh</i> ‘Fetus of Nature’ at Barnsdall Park

“Fetus of Nature,” seen Monday at the Gallery Theatre at Barnsdall Park in Hollywood, began with the sound of relentless thunder and one man crouching in terror and anguish, another in calm protest.

It ended 70 minutes later with five figures slowly advancing and bowing their heads to the beneficent taped serenity of Handel’s “Ombra mai fu.” The ending was not ironic.

In between, San Francisco choreographer Tama (the stage name of Koichi Tamano) fashioned a haunting, grotesque satire to a Strauss waltz; an anguished, triumphant update of Nijinsky’s “L’Apres-midi d’un faune”; long passages of agonized muscular effort, and many obscure, repetitive step sequences.

The work, an example of the Japanese postwar butoh performance idiom, was divided, according to the brief, unenlightening program note, into three parts: “Nature Coming Over Me,” “Finback Whale” and “Waterway to the G.” But the main sections followed each other without break, and there were more than two blackouts to indicate changes of focus.


No matter. Tama, who also is artistic director of the Harupin-Ha Company, which appeared in the work, had in particular two extended solos to demonstrate his virtuosic and compelling dancing.

In the first, clad only in a loincloth and sporting a long piece of bark--mask-like--at the side of his face, he moved tortuously, his body gripped with tension, his muscles contracted in hard knots.

In the second, to Debussy’s “Prelude,” he echoed the severe profile plastique of Nijinsky’s Faun, but stripped of any languid, sensual overtones. He offered instead, the human body pushed to an extreme--uncomprehending, deprived, needful. He was terrific.

Of the rest of the company, including three women, who among other difficult requirements had repeatedly to clench and unclench themselves in tightly held stomach lifts, only Hiroko Tamano was identified.


Reiko Hasegawa composed and assembled the score, which ranged from lyric, synthesized tones overlaid with natural sounds (such as various kinds of running water) to oppressive, mechanical noises--in addition to the borrowings from the classical repertory.

No one received credit for the dramatic lighting. But Keiko Nelson was credited for stage design, Fusako DeAngelis for costumes and Tony Yoshida for graphic panels hung at both sides of the stage.