Performance troupe TAIHEN was formed in Osaka in 1983 by writer and director Manri Kim (b.1953), a Korean resident in Japan. All the troupe's performers are physically challenged and their performances rely not on language, but on the full expressive power of the challenged body. The most severely disabled performers are helped on and off the stage by able-bodied kuroko, the black-clad stage assistants common in Kabuki theater. In order to highlight the shape of their bodies, all performers wear skin-tight leotards for solo and group performances. They create a "tale of the body," an original physical expression that is the first of its kind in the world and highly acclaimed for its artistic quality. In their best-known work Maha-Laba densetsu (The Legend of Maha-Laba Village), Kim depicts the ups and downs of an imaginary village based on the Maha-Laba Village commune which existed in Ibaraki Prefecture in the late 1960s. After a performance in Stuttgart one reviewer noted, "Their stage performance displays true aesthetics and poetry, and demonstrates the universality of humanity."
The Legend of Maha-Laba Village Photo: Fukunaga Koji (Studio epoque)