There is perhaps no more salient demonstration of the attenuated state of the classical ballet than the number of ethnic dance troupes being showcased this autumn in New York. These range all the way from the traditional folkloric to the contemporary postmodern, and the largest contingent is Japanese, with four troupes performing within a single two-week period in late September and early October. The season opened on September 18 with the Japanese modern-dance company Sankai Juku, which pre sented its ninety-minute dance drama “The Egg Stands Out of Curiosity” for a week at City Center as the first leg of a three-month North American tour.

Sankai Juku is an exemplar of the genre known as Butoh, which evolved in the 1960s as a reaction against the emotional restriction and rigid stylization of such classical Japanese theatrical forms as Kabuki and Noh. The creators of Butoh sought...


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