To make things clear, Naoko Tanaka does not know anything about dance. She studied oil painting and fine art in Tokyo and Düsseldorf. Though that is probably the very reason as to why the artistic inspiration that circulates her transient body is so convincing - this has been expressed in her installation-like stage works that have been composed enchantingly since 2011. Her definition of choreography is simple yet magical; she manipulates light in a predestined order exposing space in place of her own body, call her a dancer of light perhaps, the light and shadow play a game that blows in a breath of life. Tanaka opens the door to a world of the unconscious, a world of the innocent, to the audience in the symbolic horizon. And thus the „Shadow Trilogy“ composed of her first three theatrical performances „Die Scheinwerferin“(2011), „Absolute Helligkeit“(2012), and „Unverinnerlicht“(2015) was realised.

In her latest performance installation „STILL LIVES“, polyethylene cushions containing air, reminiscent of light become the subject of actions. Towards the end of the performance Naoko Tanaka and her partner Yoshie Shibahara absorb themselves in adjoining the furniture and objects from our daily lives, which have lost reality as if part of a dream even though they have been borrowed from the real world, to create a dreary and poetic installation with the quality of a gallery exhibition. 

Here, the cluster of objects that seem to sink into the ellipse of the black reflective horizon indicate the enigmatic depth of the space. In contrast to this strangely oily and mystical swamp, Tanaka creates a swirl of light that reaches into the heavens - a light that slowly draws a circle as if to caress the location. By her use of light, not only does she turn the attention of the audience to the architectural characteristic of Sophiensaele´s great hall (the theatre in Berlin at which the performance premiered at) which are normally hidden in the darkness, but she metaphorically expands the location into a greater space. As if released from all constrictions, the venue is unleashed into the (internal) universe of the night, as a fraction of the cityscape pulled out by its loots. It still hangs there; the remain of a choreographed piece of visual art. 

Christine Matschke

TANZ Yearbook 2018 

© 2019 Naoko Tanaka