time to change the way we view music and the arts

Erasing Lines in the Sand with: Japanese Manga?

There’s something to be said for the lists of shunned visionaries, the feather ruffling women and every other kind of society defying individuals that have acted throughout history. Going against the grain and standing out are almost always a surefire way to make the journey for inner peace and personal satisfaction twice as hard as everyone else. I would know –I’m still looking for it. Not that I’m looking to pronounce myself some amazing gift to the world that will create an irreplaceable footprint; it’s just that I understand having one hand pointing left and one pointing right. Having two teams you want to be on and give your all to, but last time I checked, giving your all means you can’t be divided. The reason I’m kind of throwing out a somewhat loaded intro that pokes at the topics of liberalism and inner balance is that both of the stories that caught my attention this week kind of hit those areas but also seem to play off of each other, in that there’s an underlaying connection of working toward an unspoken but lasting acceptance amidst an element of uniqueness –either emotive or physical but always inherent, that sets a person back right from the start.

The rigorous art of dance, the controversy of extreme traditional practice… these are hot topics that have been covered to the 10th degree and brought to light through things like the Black Swan, and Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. Tradition is something that runs deep in the veins of any performing art and dance is no exception. It’s when newer, more “off the beaten path” ideas come raining down on choreographers’ and artists’ minds that heads tend to lift up to take extra notice. One recent such idea came from the minds of dancer/choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and composer Nitin Sawhney. In short, the two have worked together to create a new ballet based on the ideas and creations of manga writer Osamu Tezuka. One of Tezuka’s most prominently remembered manga works, especially in the eyes of earlier American audiences, was that of Astro Boy. it is this particular story and character that Cherkaoui refers to when being interview by The Guardian. His emphasis lies on the idea of self identification and the sweet relief brought by having a refuge in Tezuka’s story of a character with an irremovable ‘conflict of interest’ in his existence, just as Cherkaoui himself.

“…he found Tezuka’s universe an escape and an education. Having to deal with the complications of his Flemish-Moroccan parentage, and of being gay, he discovered in Tezuka’s sci-fi fantasies an emotional truth that spoke to him directly. “Tezuka has such empathy, he gets completely under the skin of his characters. Like Astro Boy, the boy robot with a human heart. I could really identify with him. He’s caught between two worlds, trying to make humans and robots understand each other. His stories bring up all these issues of slavery and apartheid, even free will. Astro Boy doesn’t know if he’s good because he’s really good, or whether he’s just programmed to be that way.”.”

Cit. the guardian.co.uk

Of course, it’s not as though the work itself, “TeZuKa” (which there is a video for below,) is purely referencing manga plot lines. I thoroughly enjoy Cherkaoui’s more “overarching” Cit.[1] focus on “a range of elemental characters: creators, destroyers, protectors,” Cit. [Ibid.] which channels the philosophies and moral directives of Tezuka, but does not fully lean on his pre-existing works. (Though including a kung-fu fight based on a manga plot line never hurts, right?)

Cherkaoui’s intent to communicate a personal thought process and past/present element of his life’s story through his art form is an idea that is almost the fundamental purpose behind art in the first place. People draw on personal experience and personal views and relative connection. Yet something about the way this upcoming ballet is so intricately but understandably described makes me see the relation to Cherkaoui’s life much more clearly and makes it somehow slightly more appealing than any other work that pops up on the market, which was most likely also born of an invidual’s revelatory thoughts and personal experience. Not only is he doing something that addresses a focus not typical of ballet in general (manga and ballet, very cool, but never thought I’d see it happen) but the reasoning behind such a combination isn’t only for flash and shock value but for real reasons that reflect an atypical upbringing on top of an uncommon soul.

“Turning Drawings into Dance” – TeZukA

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