In 800 Signs

« Why am I always afraid to lose something? » « Why am I always stressed? » « Why do I feel lonely even when I am happy? » « What am I looking for in art? » « What does it mean to expect a baby? »

The audience doesn’t pay much attention to the recorded voice to begin with. People after people stop chatting and head after head turns to the stage. How many people ask themselves the same questions? How many times a day? The funny voice goes on tickling the clichés: « Why do people tell me I am Vietnamese when I’m tanned? »

A three-months pregnant Kaori Ito performs her own work of art, Je danse parce que je me méfie des mots, which translates into I dance because I am afraid of words. She dances alongside her father, visual artist Hiroshi Ito who hasn’t decided to grow old just yet. Since the piece’s early days in 2014, he’s only got younger, more energetic, slightly thinner if anything.

The Japanese choreographer introspects her own path both as a woman and a dancer between Japan, the US and France where she finally settled in 2003.

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To tell her story without words she goes back to nursling stage. Crawling onto the floor, her faced covered in a baby paper masy, she screams like the infant trying to find their balance up to a vertical posture. Her body was shaped very early by European dance training, placing its core «a lot higher than for regular Japanese people».

The torsions of her body, her joints, even her toes betray the hardship of elaborated practice and the inevitable load of suffering that comes along with it. As she frowns and cries, it seems that her own skin is about to crack open. Learning relentlessly, perfecting her craft across three continents and confronting radically opposed methods has probably given Kaori Ito her distinctive cat-like yet festive graceful moves.

« Why do I feel lonely even when I am happy? »

Meanwhile, a slender Hiroshi leaps up from sitting straight contemplatively on a chair. Swinging around on a light foot, he dances subtly with a smile. As a sculptor he conceived the show’s scenography, dominated by a black nylon monolith in the shape of a giant cactus. But not a single thorn will come between the pair. A lifting of the veil reveals a pile of chairs, making the tension drop. If this is what fear looks like, if this is what death really is then there is nothing to be afraid of. It’s a living impulse, a legacy from a father to his daughter.

Hiroshi et Kaori Ito, Je danse parce que je me méfie des mots, illustration © Araso

Hiroshi et Kaori Ito, Je danse parce que je me méfie des mots, illustration © Araso

Calling out to her own father, asking questions such as «Why do you smoke? » « How many polyps did they remove from you? » « Why do you eat at three in the morning? » « How much longer are you going to live? » is a way for the young woman to re-establish contact with someone she’s gone so far away from. It’s also her challenging the authority of the father, going as far as switching roles. The daughter commands a « sushi » « miso soup » « Champs Elysées » « Madonna » or even a « Michael Jackson » dance, and the father obeys hilariously.

The memory of the bodies, words recorded on tapes, give to the notion of time some unprecedented density, Proustian even. A tangible material, time sculpts the sublime pas de deux between father and daughter, suspended with insane intensity.

Kaori Ito, Je danse parce que je me méfie des mots, at the Théâtre de la Ville – Espace Pierre Cardin until May 11th 2017.

Illustration © Araso