Side B, by Japanese choreographer Ikuyo Kuroda, is an apt title for the first of two works by her all-woman company Batik. It looks like the derivative B-side to Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker’s mid-1980s Belgian hit Bartók/Mikrokosmos,* in which a squad of women in black dresses and boots mixed militaristic drills with girlie gestures and knicker-flashing. Side B uses the same ingredients, but has none of the wit, craft or musical interest.
their hidden personae are the flipside to their faces, just as their faces are B-sides to their bodies
The group compositions are heavy-handed, and either mimic the music – a medley of baroque harpsichord, latin-tinged jazz and folksy piano – or ignore it altogether. Initially, a blood-red curtain hangs down so that we see only the lower legs of the six women as they bang out banal rhythms. One drops her skirt. The curtain itself drops to reveal more of the same, with added skirt-lifting. The pace builds to a wild banshee ritual. They keep their backs to us throughout. When they do turn, they hide behind their hair, or wrap their dresses over their faces. Heads covered, bras, knickers and legs on display – their hidden personae are the absent flipside to their faces, just as their faces are B-sides to their bodies.
Kuroda’s following solo, Shoku, extends some of these motifs, but here her skirt is red and her panties frilly. She proffers a platter of electric torches like a dutiful servant, or impassive sex-slave. She rakes her legs with torchbeams, grips a shoe between her thighs before licking it. She rummages in her underwear, simulating masturbation, and inserts a flashlight there too, like a dildo. She shows neither pleasure nor desire. There are glimpses of rage or revulsion: she spits on her dress, and at one point seems to want to gouge out her own vagina. Kuroda is certainly audacious, but mostly she doesn’t so much illuminate the soulless sexualisation of her body as act it out.
* Note: the originally published piece in the Guardian referred to “Rosas Danst Rosas”. This has been corrected here to “Bartók/Mikrokosmos”.