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.

Tickets can still be purchased for $20 at the door for tonight’s culminating show.

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