Former Chief Dance Critic of the New York Times Anna Kisselgoff has long been a familiar face at ADF. Her first attendance in 1968–on ADF’s former grounds at Connecticut College–pre-dated the arrival of Director Emeritus Charles L. Reinhart, and upon stepping into her role as Chief Dance Critic in 1977, she has been a pivotal figure in expanding the profile of many dance companies at the ADF and beyond.
In the text below, Kisselgoff recounts her experience attending the premiere of the revolutionary Japanese Butoh group Dairakudakan in 1982, and its diverse range of audience reactions.
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The American Dance Festival has played a very important role in introducing new modern dance from abroad to American audiences. One of the major contributions, I think, was when ADF presented the first overtly defined Japanese Butoh dance group.
When ADF Directors Charles and Stephanie Reinhart brought Dairakudakan to the festival in 1982, the impact was that of shock. It was something totally new: a colorful and grotesque, nightmarish and delightful program all at once.
The image onstage was always grotesque, but incredibly powerful. I remember when [founder Akaji Maro] entered on stilts in a long kimono to a roaring sound–which sounded like a tornado–mothers started running up the aisle, grabbing their kids out of the theater. I remember there was a little boy yelling, “but Ma, I wanna stay!” And he was right, because children see very directly.
I’m a big fan of these choreographers that we’ve never heard of that have been introduced by the American Dance Festival. Japanese Butoh brought a view of dance, which can look very colorful and entertaining but which has a dark side. That’s not new, but it was how they did it that was very different.
I think that was a milestone.