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Immersing Into the Present: Seattle Butoh Festival 2012

Written by Carla María Negrete Martínez
Photo by Gunnar H Stening
This past weekend, DAIPAN Butoh Collective presented the Seattle Butoh Festival 2012. They proudly hosted two international artists this year, SU-EN from Swedenand Atsushi Takenouchi from Japan. The show presented on Saturday, October 27, 2012, featured four works. The first half of the evening featured five DAIPAN members’ collaborations, Geosoma MuMatics, LOLA, and Silver Lining. The second half hosted Takenouchi’s Skin.

Maureen Momo Freehill and Sheri Brown collaborated on GeoSoma MuMatics. Framed by a video collage on her left and Brown slowly shuffling to a pole at stage right, Freehill hung upside down from a white aerial yoga hammock. Her legs and feet contorted into angular forms as she righted herself, revealing her face. The video projections flashed images of the golden number in nature, like the circumferences formed after a drop of water collides with a pond. The monotonous humming music by Stephen Fandrich made both women’s portrayal of sadness, anger, orgasmic joy, and insanity not only incredibly intimate, but bordering on unbearable to witness. At one point Da Vinci’s “Vitruvian Man” was projected, and Freehill, suspended by the hammock, struck the same pose, slowly spinning upside down. Later, sadness returned to both women; Freehill stepped into the audience sobbing as she reached for something past the walls, while Brown melted onto the floor. Near the end of the work, the music became radically rhythmic and both women moved faster, mimicking everyday gestures: typing, looking behind themselves, lifting a hand to ask a question, writing, etc. Every gesture took less than a second and evolved into uncontrollable trembling, until a final release.

Diana García-Snyder’s LOLA was a comical movie that resulted from a collaboration with visual artist and filmmaker Fritz Bonzaier. Set to Boris Spassov & Sofia National Opera Orchestra’s version of Ludwing Minkus’ “Don Quixote,” the film began with García-Snyder sitting on the floor, her limbs pretzel-like and lethargic, and her face bowed down. She resembled Lola, the pillow puppet made of limbs that was laying on stage. With every crescendo García-Snyder almost sat upright. She slowly progressed from sitting to standing and fully dancing joyously, and each section of her progress was cut by a shot of Lola sitting in different positions on a chair. While the choreography and performance were quite entertaining, the stationary camera angle and looped shots made the movie seem novice. When the film ended, Lola jerked her head up, as if the dance was commencing again but this time with Lola performing live on stage.

Joan Laage collaborated with Kaoru Okumura to create Silver Lining. In this eerie piece, Okumura’s live filming of the performance on stage, revealed to the audience each of Laage’s motions and emotions, even while she faced away. After tiptoeing through the space, Laage elegantly drew a piece of parchment with characters written on it from her coat and placed it on the floor with a pebble on top of it. She proceeded to take out a red tag and a mirror; the tension in her hands heightened by the details shown in the projection. Laage then took out the chopsticks that held her hair up, allowing it to unravel down to her knees. Silver Lining created an overall voyeuristic experience for the audience, allowing them a glimpse of a private moment. Hyper-controlled motions, shown in most Butoh performances, were exemplified when Laage gradually made her way to the floor without the aid of her hands.

Atsushi Takenouchi
After a lengthy intermission, Takenouchi took the night away with Skin, while Hiroko Komiya created a sound score with vocals and various objects. She shared the completely black stage with Takenouchi, who lay on the floor, surrounded by white powder. Every moment of his performance was driven by the sensations on his skin. As stated in the program, he attempted to have no boundaries between him and the environment, allowing the audience to witness a beautiful exploration. The work peaked when he took a handful of white powder and retraced his steps while letting powder fall from his hands. He then let the powder fall over his head and entire body as he slowly spun in the same spot. When he let his hair loose, a cloud of white filled the space. With Amiya Brown’s beautiful lighting design, the stage appeared transformed into a cloud in the middle of the universe where Takenouchi was completely one with the space around him.

In addition to the events with the Seattle Butoh Festiavl, Joan Laage will hold a Butoh workshop the next four Monday evenings. For more information visit this website. If you missed Atsushi Takenouchi’s performance, he will have a workshop and performance from October 29 through November 1 in Portland. More information on DAIPAN Butoh Collective can be found here.