Butoh, the Japanese conceptual dance, can be described as defiance to Gerard
Richter's theory of the non-catalogable properties of the human face: the idea
that the muscles of the face are so multiple and so complex they inherently
escape fascism. Butoh performance quickly expands this notion - the infinity
of expressive possibilities - to the entire body. On June 16th, 2009, the Paris
Butoh Festival featured Yumi Fujitani's Rakugaki Danse and Nanami Kohshou's
Au Bout du Vent, two performances so different one may have to extend
this expressive infinity to the Butoh genre itself.
session included two non-Japanese performers, who served as visual litter in
the audience's attempt to seize all of Fujitani's highly complex corporeal trance.
The dancers shrieked, moaned and quacked like ducks as if they were completely
independent planets, blind to one another's presences but still affected by
their movements whenever their bodies intersected.
It was basic Eisensteinian
math: one image preceded by the next triggering a third meaning. Except that
all these bodies squatted, shrank, recoiled and ran all at once, occupying different
sections of the same plane of vision, like the pioneering split frames in Abel
Gance's Napoleon (1927).
There is something
uncanny and desperately cathartic about Butoh because it quickly swoops the
audience into an unfamiliar, yet mesmerizing, sense of gravity. The limbs either
barely move or they move too fast. The body never does what it "normally"
would or should. It is a trance-like catharsis akin to automatic writing, and
Fujitani's show added layers of complexity by featuring two white dancers by
her side. If their skills were comparatively feeble, their weakness served as
highlighter for the stunningly minute way Fujitani somatized her suffering in
speeds unbeknownst to earthlings' waking lives.
Au Bout du Vent was a much subtler, more delicate affair. The audio was
so minimal one could hear the growling of several spectators' stomachs. A phonograph
needle scratched the rubbery surface of a vinyl-less vinyl player as Kohshou
moved his arms about so slowly one would think that the audience wasn't seeing
actual movement but a procession of single frames.
Photo of Nanami
Kohshou by Diego Costa
body unfolded itself as slowly as the laziest snail, the soft noise suddenly
became a deafening static sound so violent it drove at least one audience member
to storm out of the packed 60-person theater. Perhaps more people would have
fled were they not hypnotized by such jarring minutiae, an audio-visual hypothermia
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