At the Hawk's Well

  • photo: Ann Ray

After Willam Butler Yeats

  • direction, scenography, light design: Hiroshi Sugimoto
  • music: Ryoji Ikeda
  • choreography: Alessio Silvestrin
  • costume design: Rick Owens
  • video: Hiroshi Sugimoto, Ryoji Ikeda
  • technical assistant for video and programming: Tomonaga Tokuyama
  • Noh choreographer and actor: Kanze Testunojo
  • assistant choreographer: Yuichiro Yokozeki
  • length: 40 min.
  • premiere: Opéra National de Paris, Palais Garnier, Paris 22.09.2019
  • Les Étoiles, les Premiers Danseurs et le Corps de Ballet:
    Hawk Woman / Ludmilla Pagliero
    Young Man / Hugo Marchand
    Old Man / Alessio Carbone

Alice Cartonnet, Marine Ganio, Charline Ciezendanner, Roxane Stojanov,
Camille de Bellefon, Hohyun Kang, Yannick Bittencourt, Florimond Lorieux,
Léo de Bousserolles, Thomas Docquir, Milo Avêque, Cyril Chokroun

  • photo: Ann Ray

The publication of Noh plays included in The Noh Theater of Japan, edited by Ezra Pound, reveals Ernest Fenollosa’s translations as follows:

When a text seems to “go off into nothing” at the end, the reader must remember “that the vagueness or paleness of words is made good by the emotion of the final dance,” for the Noh has its unity in emotion. It has what we may call Unity of Image.

Noh Theater always bases emotion upon an idea, not upon personality. Fenollosa describes this as “the intensification of a single image.” This is an approach that appears in Hiroshi Sugimoto’s scenographic concept for At the Hawk’s Well. The scenography exhibits the Noh stage (Nohgakudo) as a symbol of the Island of the play. He surrounds the Island with a semicircular projection of his photographs of the ocean and its incorporeal horizon – seascapes that hold the rhythmic, perpetual flux of the waves – a vast prehuman time, interlaced with the earth through its primordial elements: air and water. Time is therefore only a succession of eternal instants, actualized by the constant progression of the interception. Noh often has significant pauses in both music and dramatic action. Yeats describes such pauses as “moments of muscular tension” and consequently wrote in his introduction to Certain Noble Plays of Japan:

The interest is not in the human form but in the rhythm to which it moves, and the triumph of their art is to express the rhythm in its intensity.

Yeats also explains, in the Preface of Four Plays for Dancers:

I do not want any existing form of stage dancing, but something with a smaller gamut of expression, something more reserved, more self-controlled, as befits performers within arm’s reach of their audience.

In between the known and the unknown, Yeats’s challenging instructions allow a reflection on the multiplicity of the current dance reality and the preserved heritage of the traditional Japanese Noh Theater. As in Takahime, the dramaturgical development for this new choreographic version of At the Hawk’s Well acknowledges the evolution of Yeats’s script. In this new production, such evolution redirects the “becoming” towards the consolidation of emotion faced by the presence of form. Yeats’s complex symbology thus resonates with the core non-duality or intrinsic twoness of the Buddhist paradox: “emptiness is form; form is emptiness, ” and trans-forms it to “emptiness is form after form is emptiness.”

Alessio SIlvestrin

  • photo: Ann Ray


Created in 1916 in London, the ballet then underwent various adaptations before culminating in this very esoteric contemporary form and a little abstruse. Beyond its neo-classical form, ballet distills a disturbing strangeness that owes to the fusion between sound, images, video, and light. Not to mention Ricky Owens’ costumes of unbridled creativity.

Noël Tinazzi
RUE DU THÉÂTRE 26.09.2019

The representation of ancestral forces that culminates with the sudden appearance of an authentic actor of the Noh Theater to the sound of a psalmist with the rhythm of characteristic imprecation that evokes other realities. Because dance without mystery is not dance. The choreography is an equation of difficult solution that is solved to the spell of bodies, movements, music. It is not the disorder of a session of liberation of psychic forces, it has the rigor of a mathematical demonstration, that if it is not achieved, the whole hypothesis fails.

Enrique Atonal
ARTEZBLAI 04.10.2019

The performance is directed by the Japan-based Italian choreographer Alessio Silvestrin, a former collaborator of William Forsythe. It marries contemporary dance and Noh movement, characterised by nodding, posing and sometimes stomping.

Minako Norimatsu
WALLPAPER 14.10.2019

Sugimoto’s masterful vision of visual arts, lighting design and direction with the sublime choreography of Allesio Silvestrin culminated in enthusiastic applause for his first ballet creation.

Kirstin O’Brien
LUCIRE 04.11.2019

  • photo: Ann Ray