Clinton St. Quarterly, Vol. 7 No. 4 | Winter 1985 (Seattle) /// Issue 14 of 24 /// Master# 62 of 73

of the initial dance atop the Mutual Life Building, the terror of the accident itself, and the profound confusion shot into the interpretive process by bizarre chance, set into a context of primordial images— all have compounded the trauma for Seattle. But how to verbalize the incomprehensible, how to conceptualize some essential, seemingly unnamable mystery surrounding the event we witnessed. The key to understanding lies in the nature of the crowd. In Crowds and Power, Elias Canetti describes “crowd crystals” as “small, rigid groups of men, strictly delimited and of great constancy, which serve to precipitate crowds.” While the crowd is shifting, transient and susceptible to momentum and inertia in the process of agglomeration and dispersal, the structure of the crowd crystal “is such that they can be comprehended and taken in at a glance. Their unity is more important than their size. The crowd crystal is constant; it never changes its size. It’s members are trained in both action and faith.” Uniformed soldiers, monks and orchestras are cited as examples of this; Sankai Juko is perhaps the purest form of such a “crowd crystal” ever experienced by any of us. Yoshiyuki Takada himself has said that the troupe shaves their bodies and paints themselves white in order “to be nothing”—the ultimate uniform, primeval in its blankness, signifying everything, implicating each viewer in the “moment” of species prehistory by its nothingness. Trained in both action and faith (physical movement and spiritual discipline), the Buto troupe crystalized the crowd instantaneously, from the moment of their appearance atop the Mutual Life Building. Certain mythic forces, or at least the images of such forces, seemed to have been set in motion. Elias Canetti touches upon the mythos of the crowd’s reaction to such a crystal: Yoshiyuki Takada “outside the crystal” was precisely what did count— and what was lost to all. Despite the fact that the line between art and mortality must be maintained in the name of our shared humanity, it is necessary to acknowledge a certain continuum of experience that links the Dance of Birth and Death, so abruptly terminated by the broken rope, with the physical death of Yoshiyuki Takada, especially in the continuing social and psychological experience of the crowd. When the rope snapped, the whole constellation of the crowd’s reception of and reaction to Sankai Juku fell from the comfortable realm of aesthetic modernity into a darker realm of the archaic, the prehistoric. We were pointed in this direction by the art itself, of course; the aesthetic version of such a “deep sense memory” clearly informed the first minutes of the hanging piece, itself drawn from a longer work with the revealing title Homage to Prehistory—Jomon Sho. With the fall, however, an all too real spectacle of ritualized mortality, history itself—or at least our sense of history— was thrown into question. A collective spasm of terror, as if some seamless sphere of art had been punctured and the very protoplasm of the species were rushing out in a single gasp, passed through the crowd. Watching the videotape on the news that night, we would hear that sound again. It is a sound unlike any other. It is the sound of a certain chord of social prehistory being struck—social, species prehistory, and not merely the image of it—a chord with the dim memory of sacrifice as its dominant. 3403 Fremont Ave. N. LUNCH & DINNER HOURS • Mon-Thurs 11 am -11 pm Fri&sat 11 am - Midnight Sun 4 pm -10 pm SPECIALS SALMON TERIYAKI $3.45 YAKISOBA (VEG.) $2.95 CHICKEN TERIYAKI $2.95 BEEF TERIYAKI $3.15 "We Charcoal Broil!" SPECIAL HOSPITALITY ACADIA HEALTH CENTER Massage • Reflexology Deep Tissue Manipulation Chinese Ear Cleaning Sauna 5720 Roosevelt Way N.E. 526-8331 T o claim that Yoshiyuki Takada’s death was symbolic, or fitting, or aesthetic, or even ironic, would dehumanize both speaker and victim. Such a claim was certainly not made when a young roof cleaner fell to his death the same day. “The first feeling of anyone seeing or experiencing them should be that this is a unit that will never fall apart. Their life outside the crystal does not count.” Yet when the rooe snapped, the life of 1-4 or history and culture were at stake JL after the fall. The crowd had to rush to recuperate its very grounding in the familiar. Thus the rush toward the poetic, the ironic, the rational. From time immemorial theatre has played a central role in the social functioning of myth and ritual. There is no doubt that Sankai Juku’s performance is engineered to reproduce elements of primordial events and, as Rene Girard writes in Violence and the Sacred, “if the modern mind fails to recognize the strongly functional nature” of sacrifice or events with sacrificial overtones, “the most basic phenomena of human culture will remain misunderstood and unresolved.” This is not to say that a sacrifice took place; rather, that the ambiguity and difficulty of the crowd’s reaction to the death of Yoshiyuki Takada may be compared to what we know of the social reflexes surrounding such phenomena. It should be noted, however, that Buto dance has featured, in its postwar years of development, acts of sacrifice on stage. Tatsumi Hijikata, a precursor of Sankai Juku’s “third generation” of Buto, in what is called “his most famous piece, Revolt of the Flesh," actually “slaughtered live chickens on stage and danced in their blood." Ushio Amagatsu, director of Sankai Juku, has said, “Projecting unerasable impressions is our business.” The press release distributed at the event by sponsor On the Boards states that “Amagatsu has a concept of the body virtually broken on the borders of extreme suffering. ’’ Both statements maintain the distance of representation (“impressions,” “a concept”) that serves to maintain the critical distinction between two moments, two groundings: the moment before the rope snapped, and the moment after. The collective spasm experienced by the crowd at that moment marked the advent of a strangely recombinative social cohesion. The spontaneous outpouring of grief and respectful memorializing of the site, the collective constancy at the candlelight vigil two evenings later, all attest to a profound movement toward ritual as a means of understanding the significance of what we saw, both before and after the fall. Ourselves a part of this collectivity, groping through our anguish toward some lost part of oursefves, we placed this haiku at the site: The rope a symbol— The air half full And half empty. Writer James Winchell lives in Seattle and is currently a doctoral candidate in Comparative Literature at the University of Washington. Photographer Linda Novenski Let our friendly and caring staff help you keep your smile BRIGHT on these raining days! Call Us Today 324-1100 218 Broadway E. (Above Eggs Cetera Restaurant) Broadway Dental Center New Seattle Massage 4519Y2 University Way NE 632-5074 Swedish - Shiatsu - Acupressure Massage for Pregnant Women Sauna Opening soon — our new STEAM ROOM designed on the theme of a Japanese Garden Gift certificates available (order by phone with V1SA/MC) Open daily I Validated parking Classroom/rehearsal space for rent GEORGE M. STEPHENS. D.D.S..P.S. SALLY HEWETT. D.D.S. 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