The age of the samurai ended a few years after the demise of the Japanese feudal era in 1868.
'Kata', French choreographer Anne Nguyen’s fusion of hip hop dancing and martial arts, examines whether the way of the warrior, the Bushido code, and our primal combat instincts died with the samurai, or simply manifested in a new form.
Anne Nguyen arrived at the world of breakdancing via a circuitous route; she began as a competitive gymnast, then trained in an array of martial arts, including the Vietnamese Viet Vo Dao and the Afro-Brazilian amalgam of dance, acrobatics and combat, capoeira. Only after a brief foray as a physicist did she land upon contemporary urban dance. There is a commonality to all her seemingly divergent explorations, though; the fluidity and functionality of motion.
In 'Kata', eight dancers seamlessly synthesised modern hip hop moves with ancient martial arts techniques; they squatted in horse stance, gave Bruce Lee come-hithers, then popped and locked like b-boys and b-girls. There was more popping and breaking in 'Kata' than in a Tony Jaa movie, and more locks than a Royce Gracie fight.
Driven on by Sebastien Lete’s relentless percussion, the performers battled with the ferocity of a Hong Kong action film for 60 minutes, save for brief interlude while seated cross-legged on the floor in meditation posture. Aside from being a mode of self-defence, the show asks, were martial arts designed as a way of summoning vital energy? Chi, ki, kundalini, whatever you’d like to call it. Was it an attempt to hold on to primal, evolutionary movements that are etched in our DNA but that we no longer have a use for?
Does dance serve a similar function, and is the reason that rates of depression are so high that most of us now spend our days rigidly seated behind a desk, perhaps engaged in passive aggressive social media battles where, as keyboard warriors, we no longer need to look our opponent in the eye? Are we no longer truly engaging with each other?
'Kata' is a union of worlds, a social commentary and a demonstration that all is connected.