The premiere ballet company of Japan, the Matsuyama Ballet, spectacularly opened its one-week engagement at the Kennedy Center last evening with the full-length work "Mandala" by the company's choreographer and principal dancer, Tetsutaro Shimizu.
This production is opulent and riveting. From the beautiful muted-hued and gold-patinaed sets, to the lavish costuming and the dramatic and sweeping score by Yoshiro Kanno, the ballet overflows with dynamic and vivid imagery and first-rate performances.
The setting is medieval Japan and the ballet brings the color, pageantry, brilliance and savagery of a time long gone by to vibrant and enthralling life. Mr. Shimizu's choreography is a blend of contemporary and classic dance forms -- this a decidedly modern work despite its setting in time. The heroine, danced with a fine elegance by Yoko Morishita, is a "secret Christian" at a time when religious conformity was strictly enforced. The protagonist, Mr. Shimizu, comes to a tragic end because of his love for her. Yet despite the work's ill-starred story, "Mandala" remains haunting, brilliant and beautiful.