Image: Ryuichi Fujimura - Photo: Heidrun Löhr
After experiencing Ryuichi Fujimura’s latest work ‘Fall! Falter!! Dance!!!’ I have been reflecting on the inevitable feeling of unfulfilled potential. Every dancer possesses it, every independent dancer I know anyway. It’s expressed in a variety of ways, although usually through the inclusion of a self-reflective appraisal set against a ridiculous measurement for success. For Ryuichi in his latest work Fall! Falter!! Dance!!!, it was to be a part of a large-scale production that had a longer shelf life than the current three day season usually presented in a tightly scheduled theatre, squeezed between the ubiquitous community school eisteddfods and commercial film shoots for cars and fashion shows and the like, because they bring in the bucks.
There was a dream sequence within Fujimura’s work, in which he was on the mainstage of the Paris Opera recounting the feeling of exhilaration as he connected to the audience, which had me scrambling to remember if he had ever regaled me with this performative feat. My initial pangs of jealousy were replaced by the recognition that this vignette was a poignant symptom of just how high his imaginative bar has been set.
For me it was to head a successful company with a regular international touring schedule. My lousy people skills put that fantasy to rest well over a decade ago. The same crazy that oozes ideas also has me burning bridges quicker than a three-year old could put one together with a set of wooden blocks, paddle pop sticks and craft glue.
As for Fujimura’s dream of connecting with thousands of people on a big stage, he has done it with me and my dancing crew, so don’t be too taken in by his well-crafted hard luck story. Yes, Ryuichi donned a pair of thongs and danced in the drama theatre of the Sydney Opera House in a quirky little tap number performed in double pluggers in a small act as part of the variety show that is the Australian Dance Awards in 2007. However, in contrast to Fujimura’s imagined vignette whereby he connected to each and every audience member, I had the dancers so ill at ease they probably didn’t even register the audience for fear of recrimination from me for making mistakes afterward.
With me Fujimura also performed as part of the first ever official Aboriginal Welcome to Country for the opening of parliament in 2008. As part of my cast he was the only non-Aboriginal performer amongst the likes of Yolngu songman Djakapurra Munyarryun and NSW songman and dancer Matthew Doyle which was telecasted around the globe.
Fall! Falter!! Dance!!! was the third in a triptych of pieces which are equally endearing for Ryuichi’s ability to draw you into his life’s story. The first, How I Practice My Religion is, if not hopeful, definitely lighter in tone. It is a declaration to life shaped by the dedication to dance. Ryuichi’s simple device of verbally listing and demonstrating an endless string of movement impetus illustrated and elevated the difference between the dancer and mere mortals. For the dancer space becomes full of possibilities for engagement, as opposed to sites of behavioral containment. For example, a wall is to be leant against as a partner in a duet, instead of a landmark to delineate property. Likewise, instead of going unnoticed underfoot, the floor accommodates the spontaneously falling body.
In the second of his three pieces titled How did I get here?, Fujimura explored his relationship with and to temporality, in the juxtaposition of being in the moment of performance, whilst revisiting a lifetime of instances captured ‘in the moment’ within a photographic essay projected on the wall behind him. Like the final work in this triptych, How did I get here? incited a tinge of panic, of time running out. The martini he makes, shakes and drinks and the olive he subsequently conducts with, emphasises the perception that he, and therefore we, are never really in control of our destinies, that we are just along for a ride that will be over before we’ve had time to appreciate the time spent.
Fujimura’s moves in Fall! Falter!! Dance!!! as with his previous two works within this series were light and effortless as he segued into and out of the floor with ease, sporadically carving the space with wide arcs and tassels forged through years of practicing release technique, peppered with small gestural sequences in the assignation of anecdotal meaning. The staging was spare with sporadic video projection on the cyclorama upstage to aid in the contextualising of his overarching narrative. The lighting states made the stage feel, if not cosy, accessible.
Fujimura’s narrative construct of unfulfilled ambition and subsequent reconciliation is so well crafted that one may think that it represents a complete and correct biographical account. However, from where I sit, I have witnessed a dancing career many would envy and aspire to. For starters, the first work of this series has been performed over several seasons, nationally and internationally.
No, Fujimura did not begin his dancing life within one of the parochial dance schools from the age of five, or seven, or whatever. No, he has not been a dancer within a repertory company of interchangeable faces performing interchangeable dances in unison. No, he will not play the ubiquitous romantic male lead lifting and hefting a female partner around the stage. (Actually for the dance performed at Parliament House I performed lifts with Ryuichi as he informed me I would put his back out if he were to lift me. He was right of course. Another time when I wanted him to imagine himself as the romantic lead engaged in a tiff, he informed me that it was out of his emotional scope declaring, “I am an abstract contemporary dancer.”- ah fond memories.) But for all the negatives Ryuichi’s dancing life is so full that he has been able to create three shows out of it.
While Fujimura claims this is the last in this series the caption on the screen behind him declaring “To be continued’ informed us otherwise. Watch out Paris Opera!
Vicki Van Hout
FORM Blogger in Residence