DAIPANbutoh Collective describes Butoh as, “a natural flow of movement that takes us beyond the pretty into a deeply authentic present moment.” Unlike other dance styles that incorporate codified steps and sets of movement, Butoh seeks to “reveal elements of deep inner life through the undeniable truth of the body.” DAIPANbutoh, a collective committed to expanding Seattle’s Butoh scene, presented its second variety showcase on January 14 at 18th and Union. The intimate arts space featured a long brick wall that drew the eye further into the narrow black box stage and also created an interesting, multi-textured backdrop that mirrored the evening’s diverse offerings. In addition to Butoh works, a Japanese form known for its superhumanly slow movements and characteristic white body paint, the evening also featured a wide variety of world music, dance, and spoken word performances.
Kaoru Okumura, a member of DAIPANbutoh Collective, opened the evening with a haunting untitled work in which she painstakingly progressed across the stage on a diagonal in fits and starts redolent of stop-motion puppetry, her limbs bent and rotated inward. When finally Okumura reached her goal, an eerily lifelike doll with long, articulated arms and legs, she toiled to pick it up while maintaining the gnarled, talon-like attitude of her hands, as if some psychological force or disconnect between her reality and the material existence of the doll prevented their connection. Okumura’s adept performance quality draw out and amplified the viewer’s perception of time, creating an avenue for multi-layered interpretations of her work. Watching the surreal figure of a woman with a wavering, pasted-on smile collapse in upon herself while manipulating the doll, suggested the archetype of a mother and child, frighteningly overshadowed by the spectre of death.
Jay Hamilton presented What to do, the final of five pieces created for an upcoming evening-long performance. Unfolding one piece at a time with a final thrilling twist, Hamilton danced in concert with, and sometimes in response to, a complex disarranged spoken-word soundtrack that often asked, “How do things get gone?” Apparently mourning the loss of a “little lady” who had inexplicably vanished, the work functions as a dialogue between two people, not necessarily disparate entities, as they experience and cope with a state of catatonia and confusion resulting from the lady’s departure. Hamilton utilized the sash of his costume as a multipurpose prop, brilliant in its simplicity, to suggest a priest’s stole, a noose, a long list of items, and even a surprise party streamer as the non-linear narrative developed. In the work’s final moments, Hamilton asked himself, “Remember the gun?” suggesting a sinister explanation for the woman’s disappearance.
Glass chimes forebodingly preluded Katrina Wolfe’s work, creating a tension that only escalated when at last she slithered out from behind the black curtain. Wolfe carried a jellyfish-like prop made of jars hanging from a domed screen–the kind that keeps sparks from flying out of a fire pit; the sounds of rattling glass provided the only musical accompaniment to this tense and unnerving work. On her head Wolfe wore a larger of these coverings, but without the tinkling jars. The rusted-looking metal headpiece curved her spine, evoking an oppressive cage-like torment. Eventually, Wolfe set down both of the props and joined them on the floor, somehow balancing stably on her tailbone while her legs floated up around her ears like another set of arms, her feet contorted and gripping, as if each limb had a mind of its own. Even days later, images from Wolfe’s exquisite performance still linger. A genderless creature folding and unfolding her extremities, Wolfe’s work embodied perfectly the paradoxical grotesque and sublime atmosphere that is quintessentially Butoh.
BUTOH+ #2 also featured musical performances by Izumi Fairbanks and Helen America, dance works by Sheri Brown and Alycia Scott Zollinger, and a story-telling performance by Marcia Tate Arunga from her book, The Stolen Ones and How They Were Missed. The intimate, one-night-only performance, contained such a wide variety of talent that one hopes DAIPANbutoh will continue its mission to broaden the audience for this kind of performance art in Seattle and the Northwest.
For more information on DAIPANbutoh collective and to learn about upcoming evenings, including the Seattle International Butoh Festival in July 2018, please visit HERE.