Updated: Nov 25, 2021
In the final evening of the Dhaipan Butoh Dance Collective’s 2019 festival, the night began with an intriguing video featuring Sheri Brown, the Collective’s art director, meeting up with a Chilean woman at a Buddhist statue in Santiago, Chile. The two women show their respect for the cultural masterpiece located in the center of the city, which is actually a Korean pagoda, as they perform a number of religious prayers and rituals, symbolizing the harmony they feel from the teachings and doctrines emanating from all this pagoda represents. At other times, the two women playfully pose for the camera next to, inside, or underneath the sculpture; again showing the meaningful place butoh has in their hearts and lives, and the audience can experience this on a global level through a unique and inviting soundtrack, in “Pagoda: A Dancing in Sacred Places Project.”
The first actual live performance of the night is a two-person show entitled, “The Shadow’s on the Pearl’s Skin,” which to me, feels very much like a continuation of the piece “Corporate,” that closed the previous night’s show in astounding fashion. This piece however, has a much more mellow and soothing feel to it, as both Joan Laage and Fernando Rocha glide expertly across the floor to similar, enchanting sounds and music, to what we heard the previous night. The costumes also resemble that of the previous night, with bare skin and or face paint symbolizing bodily harmony and an array of cultural experiences the dancers go through in attaining their sweet connections. A youthful flirtation seems to be going on as well, as the two dancers are frequently pulled apart, and then whisked back together on several occasions in much the same way as in “Corporate,” however this piece leaves us feeling much more calm, and at ease when all is said and done.
The middle performance is called “Portal 11345,” and is by far, the most colorful and visually stimulating piece, perhaps of the entire festival. This dance includes five different dancers (Mary Cutrera, Helen Thorsen, Amy Ward, Shoko Zama, and Robyn Bjornson), all wearing bright-colored costumes and working together, illuminating the concept of rebirth as a central theme, and once again, the intertwining of different cultures. One of the most captivating aspects of the show is the shadows on the white wall that are created by the lighting, and when the five women dance together, there almost appears to be 20 people on stage at once, creating a very busy, yet delightfully harmonious sensation. The choreography is brilliant once again as the dancers alternate between soaring or floating across the stage to being on the ground, wrestling violently with their own limitations, at times even brought down to their knees or backs. Very colorful and beautiful hats also served as compelling props and important objects in the piece, with each character having their own vain reactions to them, similarly to how the props were displayed in “Corporate.” But contrary to the prior evening’s finale, and just as Sunday night’s previous two pieces did, this piece, accompanied by its relaxing soundtrack, leaves the audience with a feeling of calm and peaceful tranquility in the end.
These rather soothing pieces definitely give way, in the final performance of the night - a piece that performers Sheri Brown and Alan Sutherland had worked on for over 4 years, entitled “Rivers of Industry” - to a much more frantic, chaotic, and emotional rendition of the human experience. This piece breathtakingly shows the struggle of the human animal and its psyche, as it runs up against numerous forces that lure, guide, propel, and oftentimes betray the seemingly blissful and dumbfounded, at times gullible and innocent, and at other times furious and frustrated participants/victims, into any number of heart-wrenching and soul-searching adventures and experiences. This is all brilliantly encompassed and acted out, by both Brown and Sutherland, whose desperately emotional renditions are a tour de force, and nothing short of unforgettable, as they bring this psychological and physiological rainbow to life right before our eyes! Sutherland is an older gentleman, probably in his mid seventies, whose face and body are adorned in white paint, something that brings out his facial features and expressions, as well as how time has battered him, wonderfully, in an intense and enticing fashion. Brown’s facial expressions are similarly impressive, as are her dance moves to the brilliant, original soundtrack created by Jane Mabrysmith. What she does with her much younger body is equally compelling, in sharp contrast to her older companion, and at times she seems to act out an entire five-year relationship worth of ups and downs in the span of 25 minutes.
The two characters embrace like lovers, and fight physically and emotionally as they struggle with what the outside influences of the world are pressing upon them.
Anyone who has lived “real life” can identify with the concepts of corruption, working into exhaustion, and being overwhelmed by the negative forces of a world of inhumane machines constantly and competitively trying to bowl us over like candlepins. But this piece’s magic is in how unmistakably human it is, and nobody could do a more masterful job of portraying all the colors of this spectrum than that of Brown and Sutherland. “Rivers of Industry” is truly a site to behold and a lesson for us all to take in and contemplate for years to come. It serves as the perfect finale to a superb three days of art, music, culture, and dance done in a way that only the Daipan Butoh Collective can.
-Erez Kats, at the Greenwood Taoist Center in Phinney, Seattle, WA on November 3, 2019.
Saturday Nite a Hit at Butoh (Re)Evolution
Saturday night at (Re)evolution at the Seattle Butoh Festival 2019 on Greenwood Ave. in Phinney, proved to be an awe-inspiring display of creativity, sound, and emotion, as the dancers leave everything out on the (dance) floor, and are not afraid to “bare their souls,” in the process. The night begins with an unusually captivating short video that mixes the art of dance with the digital medium of visual effects and sound to create a powerful and evocative appetizer for what is to come.
In the night’s first performance, Katrina Wolfe and Joey Largent perform “Remains of the Sacred,” a moving homage to the 8th anniversary of the death of Wolfe’s sister in the month of October, and also a commemoration of the Day of the Dead (Nov. 2). The piece starts out very mysteriously, as slight rustling and creaking sounds fill the room, and a seemingly unrecognizable pile of debris on the floor resembling a landfill, slowly but certainly, comes to life. Largent gradually appears, bringing a very strange and unique live soundtrack, using an unusual array of instruments. These include an accordion, as well as two high-pitched sounding trumpets, that perfectly accompany Wolfe’s emotional and stunning unveiling, along with her many revelations. Wolfe delivers a powerhouse performance, as her facial expressions and bodily contortions are second to none, and she is finally able to shed all the trash and debris covering her, to reveal her true, pure soul in a hauntingly amazing fashion by the end.
The second piece of the night is the lighthearted interlude, bringing relief from the intense pieces before and after it, as the DaipanBhuto Collective stays true to its Japanese roots, with the playful “Goldfishes Ghost,” performed by Kauro Okamura and Aoi Lee. The soundtrack includes chanting by monks from the Hiei mountains, as well as many nature and traditional Japanese sounds. The two lady performers offer a fun and flirtatious interaction, complete with a unique costume design, in which nearly all layers are eventually removed one-by-one in the interplay between the women, who clearly care deeply for one another. Lee and Okamura play up the drama and emotion with some visceral dance moves, often intertwining themselves with one another brilliantly and emotionally.
After the intermission, however, clearly comes the piece de resistance of the evening. The group performance entitled “Corporate,” touches and focuses on worldly injustices happening in Chile (where the piece was also performed last month at a festival in Santiago), as well as other global societal dysfunctions. Sheri Brown, the artistic director of this phenomenal dance troupe, is joined by fellow artists Joan Laage, Kaoru Okamura, Alycia Scott Zollinger, and Helen Thorsen (who btw stunningly celebrates her 74th birthday, and nearly four decades dancing Butoh this weekend!). This piece can only be described as a “roller coaster ride,” and is often times simply indescribable, as the incredible and heart-wrenching melange of emotions that all five of these leading ladies experience, is absolutely riveting. As the piece opens, the women appear to be drunkenly stumbling happily along, when they suddenly transform into mice, and literally sniff out something other-worldly that transforms their entire being several times over.
Each woman has a “solo” in which they take center stage, and personally undergo the various mystical and narcissistic sensations the object brings to them. Meanwhile in the background, the facial expressions and bodily contortions of the other dancers is ever-changing and absolutely priceless! No two women look the same at any point, so while one is ecstatic and elated, the other is mesmerized or devastated. The music also brings spectacular character to the piece - everything from hip-hop sounds to traditional Japanese music to orchestral sounds - and gives birth to very unique dance moves displayed by Brown and the others. Every time one thinks the performance is about to end, it takes us on yet another thrill-ride for the ages! At times comical, and at other times terrifying, this show keeps the flabbergasted audience engaged from start to finish. And not to give away the ending (you have to see it for yourself to believe it!), but we come full circle to the ladies “baring themselves” similarly to how Katrina Wolfe does in her moving dedication, and everybody appears to be united again in purpose and soulful harmony, just as all the performers take a hard-earned and much deserved bow, and we drift into Sunday’s festival finale.
Also see : DAIPANbutohCollective.com
Erez Kats -Quixotic Entertainment