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A Projectionist’s Shadow Dance- Naoko Tanaka’s star turn

// Impuls Tanz 2012 


(Helmut Ploebst, DER STANDARD, 19.7.2012)


Vienna - The young woman sitting at the table appears asleep, even though we know that she will soon call to life an entire world of light and shadow. Her head is resting on her arms and her hair appears entangled with that of a doll lying on the table in front of her. This tableau vivant introduces Naoko Tanako’s first solo piece, Die Scheinwerferin (eng. The Projectionist). 

Under the table, the 37-year-old Japanese performer has assembled a complicated arrangement of forks, knives, juice boxes, branches, fencing, toy train tracks and celluloid film. Tanaka stands, revealing the doll’s features as a copy of the performer’s in miniature. With perfect manners, the artist introduces herself and gives the signal to dim the lights and play the sound. She switches on a small torch.


Live cinematography 

What follows is not just a beautiful dance of shadows, at the end of which Tanaka rightly receives enthusiastic applause, but a true masterpiece. Throughout the show, Tanaka’s body itself appears and vanishes, only to appear again. Together, Tanaka and her torch form a type of “human projector”. The tiny world under the table represents the unconscious of her doll alter-ego, which lies inertly on the table. The torch’s light draws giant shadows on two white walls: an unsettling world of signs and symbols.

The soundscape - first piano, then the rattle of a train, a heart beating and a dog barking - provides a backdrop to this precisely timed train of shadow images. In this way, a live cinematography is created that owes as much to traditional shadow theatre as to the aesthetics of Japanese Manga.


In a key passage Tanaka holds strips of film in front of her lamp. The created shadows call up the origins of the moving image. In this way, Tanaka shifts choreography in its original form, as the organization of physical movements in space, into a dance of the room itself conducted by the movements of the projectionist. It’s an approach significant for both Expanded Cinema and Expanded Choreography, which has become so central in recent years. The artist reflects on past eating disorders, the crisis of her body. And, as Japanese artist working in Germany, she represents a new form of postmigrant art that is currently reshaping Europe’s cultural landscape. All in all, as a dance piece it could not be more contemporary.    

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