Theatre Review: TeZukA

Manga comics come to life in a dance exploring the beauty of animation.

The sweeping arc of bodies across a stage echoes the sweeping arc of a calligrapher’s quill across paper in a brand new dance inspired by manga.

This new work by Belgian choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui was inspired by master of animation Osamu Tezuka - best known as the creator of Astro Boy and the man who pioneered the “large eyes” style that signifies manga.

His life and comic book creations now inspire choreography as TeZukA the dance work explores animation and the philosophy of a man who shaped Japanese cultural life. Many of Tezuka’s characters appear on stage and the choreography, in places, traces the comic book form. In one signature sequence the dancers robotically repeat box-like arm shapes, creating the cross hatch action of drawing in cubist dance.

But the dance is often a static backdrop on stage, as scrolls rise and fall, multi-lingual narrators talk us through the action, a brilliant live band plays tingling Asian music, clever touch screens fall and shapes pow back and forth, and the dancers, like satellite bodies, drown in a sea of busy space.

This is more pop dance opera than an invigorating blast of new choreography. The dance should have been trusted to tell more of the story. But big ideas about everything from bacteria to nuclear radiation and calligraphy to movement, resonate quietly long after the curtain falls.

* Shown at Sadler’s Wells in Rosebery Avenue, EC1, from September 6-10.