Edinburgh Fringe 2009
Zeitgeist is a self-proclaimed retrospective of Zen Zen Zo’s dance theater works since 2000. Not for the shy, this piece is an orgasmic whirlwind of movement based stimulation, drawing from Butoh and Burlesque inspirations. The practically nude ensemble is simultaneously erotic and disturbing, sometimes even funny and silly in their exploration of melding practices. However, while remaining engaging and overall appealing, the piece somehow misses the mark, and fails to acheive the moments of true guttural brilliance that the company may be capable of.
The G-string clad performers of Zeitgeist stamp, screech, swirl, and smash their way through a physically impressive hour of performance (especially impressive because of the amount of energy exuded despite it’s 22:55 time slot). This series of vignettes and mini dance pieces blasts out an ever changing landscape of bizarre and beautiful images that range from childlike and absurd to ritualistic and haunting, even outright bizarre, and the dynamic performers never fail to give it their all. The use of costumes, light, music, and food (such as raw eggs and chocolate bars) is effective and engaging, and although the piece lacks any apparent structure or dramaturgy, the hour is certainly not without a compelling force.
The Brisbane-based company is known for its radical reinterpretations of classic and modern techniques, focusing on sound, light, movement, and spectacle. This produces work which is indeed unique and fascinating, however, can sometimes smell of cheap shots and stolen aesthetics that do not fully give credit to the tradition from which they were taken. Their use of Butoh movements and facial expressions particularly in this piece, were in my opinion laid out in an almost superficial way, relying on their potential shock value on an audience who may be unfamiliar with the form. The sequences that comprise the piece were indeed impressively composed and well performed, but overall lacked specificity in their execution. Also, the transitions sometimes came across as being weak or akward, and put a stopper in the flow of the piece- to fully enjoy what they are offering (and indeed there is much here to enjoy) the audience must be fully enraptured and taken out of it’s place in the real world from start to finish. However, the overwhelming audience response to this piece is an undeniable attestant of it’s ability to win one over.
I must admit that I came into the piece with extremely high expectations, having heard so many exuberantly rave reviews, and also with a discerning eye, coming from a place of experience with Butoh techniques. It is true that perhaps the work does not fully do justice to the traditions from which it takes it’s inspiration, and manages to achieve only gut churning, rather than gut wrenching moments, but it is undeniably a bold and outstanding work from a very impressive company- definitely worth the ticket price, and inspiring for wild late night ventures thereafter. You will certainly have something to talk about.