Pappa Tarahumara

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 03 November, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 03 November, 1998, 12:00am

Pappa Tarahumara: Spring Day and Shima Island. Cultural Centre Studio. Oct 31. Festival of Asian Arts.

It is all a matter of expectations. Had I realised in advance that Pappa Tarahumara had - just like our own Zuni Icosahedron dance company - taken its name from a group of Central American Indians, and that it had already made several collaborations with Hong Kong's most 'avant' of avant garde companies, I might have expected something as slow, impenetrable and incredibly long as the performance I saw.

However, having gone on the information in the programme - with phrases like 'a fascinating duo', 'one of the most important contemporary dance companies in Japan' and 'a work filled with the warmth and lightness of a spring day', I was hoping for something rather more lively and intriguing than this.

How far it was from the brilliantly shocking Dairakudakan Butoh company in the previous Asian Arts Festival.

The first of this double bill was the more engaging. If it had not taken 90 minutes to unfold, I would have enjoyed it. The set had a wry humour to it - plastic fibre-optic cable pond weeds leaned obediently with invisible electronic winds.

And the family, in their red and white matching swimming costumes, fixed smiles and beach umbrellas, looked like extras in Monsieur Hulot's Holiday, as they scuttled optimistically looking for happiness.

Later they started to hurt each other with flames, or pulling each others' mouths until they hurt: the ideal nuclear family had cracks of cruelty in it.

In Shima Island, after the interval, what the publicity promised as an 'Oriental sense of time and motion' was translated into slow, slower and slowest.

This was as far from an MTV video as you can get.

There was not a hint of instant gratification as the two performers (man in a grey dress, woman in grey trousers) moved across an empty stage, speaking slowly in Japanese, or whining and crowing for more than an hour, sometimes joined by Hong Kong's Yeung Chi-kuk who seemed to have a tiny role for his generous billing.

Apparently it was an interpretation of Gabriel Garcia Marquez' short story A very Old Man with Enormous Wings. I wished more than once that I could fly away.