DanceWatch Weekly: My vacation to Japan

You can go to Japan, or you can go to Butoh College here at home and catch Stephen Petronio, too

I have just returned from a week in Japan, and I am in an elated, exhausted, jet lagged, watery, impermanent state of being neither here nor there. My mind is still navigating Japan, but I am physically back in the beautiful, blossoming spring of Portland.

In Japan it’s also spring, and everywhere you look there are cherry trees in full bloom with cascading pink flowers and countless people posing for photos under them. This past weekend in Arashiyama, a district on the outskirts of Kyoto, spring appreciations/celebrations were in full swing. The Hozu River, which runs from the mountains down into Kyoto, is lined with cherry trees. Large families with young girls dressed in colorful kimonos were strolling in the warm air along the banks, taking pictures under the trees, shopping, eating ice cream, and socializing into the wee hours of the evening. It was idyllic.

I don’t think I have ever experienced, appreciated, or even noticed spring in quite this way before. The slowed down pace, the appreciation of the trees, of nature, of seasons, the color of the blossoms, the attention to family and tradition; it was all so beautiful and put me in a gooey, honey-like, euphoric state.

In Tokyo I was extremely lucky to get a last-minute ticket to see a tea ceremony, dance, and music performance by Kyoto’s renowned Geiko/Geisha and Maiko (Geisha in training) called Miyako Odori, a spring dance performance that has been performed annually since 1872. The geisha are consummate performers and hostesses who dedicate their lives to perfecting the performing arts. Becoming a geisha was the first respectable profession for women in Japan and should never be confused with prostitution.

Miyako Odori. Photo courtesy of Goin’ Japanesque!

The hour-long performance was a compilation of six dances celebrating Japan’s seasons while introducing us to famous places and beautiful locations throughout Kyoto—like the mountains, streams, and temples. There were 60 performers in all, live music and singing, lavishly designed sets and lighting, and gorgeous colorful silk kimonos for days. The movements were delicate, graceful, exacting, with not a finger out of place. The experience made me fall in love with ritual all over again and understand its importance in daily life.

In contrast to this elaborate classical experience was a Butoh class I took in Kyoto with choreographer Ima Tenko. Tenko directs her own, three-person company called Butoh Company Kiraza and was a member of Byakkosha, an acclaimed Butoh company that ran for 14 years and broke up in 1994. Tenko’s company performs every Thursday to a small audience of eight or nine; sadly I was not able to see them perform. But, I did take class with her in her studio that she rents in a Korean section of Kyoto that used to be mens’ garment factory before the war. Referring to time periods in relation to the war is common in Japan. Posted on the inside of the door to her studio is a poster of ballet dancer Vaslav Nijinsky, performing The Rite of Spring.

Butoh dancer Ima Tenko performing Hisoku. Photo courtesy of Ima Tenko.

Even though she and I had language barrier issues, I still felt like I fully understood what she was saying. Movement speaks volumes, you know. It was almost like I could hear her speaking in English in my head even though she wasn’t. I found that her warm up exercises were familiar as they were based on modern and postmodern dance, and her themes of humans in nature are universal. We even did a sumo exercise, practiced the Butoh walks, which are based in Noh Theatre, and on the way Japanese people walk, and we scrunched up our faces and shuffled around like bent old ladies at the end of class to fully understand the experience of authentic movement embodiment.

I thought as a Westerner that going to Japan to take Butoh would be a completely unfamiliar experience, but it wasn’t. Even though I live 5,000 miles away, and I am not a regular Butoh practitioner, I still felt a connection with Tenko’s movement history because of the modern dance lineages that we are both tied into from our training that connect us all world wide. It was pretty cool.

And with that I offer you this week’s performances, some of which are Butoh based.

Performances this week!

Butoh dancer Yumiko Yoshioka performing in 100 Light Years of Solitude. Photo courtesy of Water in the Desert.

100 Light Years of Solitude
Yumiko Yoshioka
Presented by Water in the Desert as part of Butoh College 2018
8 pm April 4
The Headwaters Theatre, 55 NE Farragut St. #4
Based on the novel 100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez, 100 Light Years of Solitude by Japanese Butoh artist Yumiko Yoshioka explores the state of solitude through the life of an imaginary creature born alone on a planet 100 light years away. The creature enjoys its existence until it realizes that it will be alone for eternity.

Based in Germany, Yumiko is a third generation Butoh artists whose work explores edges, connections, what is visible and invisible, and the bodies ability to hold time, memory, and perspective.

As part of Butoh College 2018, produced annually by Mizu Desierto and Water in the Desert, Yumiko will be teaching a workshop from April 5-8 using her personal style of bodywork called Body Resonance that integrates Butoh with Noguchi Taiso gymnastics, Taichi, Yoga, and various breathing exercises to relax the body and prepare it to receive and transmit dance and other inspirations.

Stephen Petronio Company
Presented by White Bird
April 5-7
Newmark Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway
To honor the American postmodern dance masters who inspired and influenced him, choreographer Stephen Petronio is in the middle of a five-year repertory project called Bloodlines. The project includes works by Merce Cunningham, Trisha Brown, Anna Halprin, Yvonne Rainer, and Steve Paxton. The juxtaposition of these dances against Petronio’s own work offers insight into the evolution of the postmodern dance tradition.

Stephen Petronio Dance Company performs in Portland this weekend./Photo courtesy of White Bird

Founded in 1984 by Petronio, the Stephen Petronio Company has a repertoire more than 35 works, and Petronio has been commissioned to create new dances for modern and ballet companies around the world. He was the first male dancer to dance for the Trisha Brown Dance Company and was last in Portland in 2012, when he performed a rendition of Steve Paxton’s Intravenous Lecture (1970) where he/the dancer, speaks and dances around while inserting and maintaining (for a length of time) an IV attached to a pole in his arm.

The company will perform: Diagonal (1963), Trio A with Flags(1966/1970), and Chair-Pillow (1969), an excerpt from Continuous Project-Altered Daily by Yvonne Rainer, an excerpt from Goldberg Variations (1986) by Steve Paxton, The Courtesan and the Crone (1999), a solo to be performed by Stephen Petronio choreographed by Anna Halprin, and a new work by Petronio called Untitled Touch (2017).

Reaching Back to Our Roots: Annual Gala Fundraiser
Kúkátónón Children’s African Dance Troupe
6 pm April 7
Madeline Parish Hall, 3123 NE 24th Ave.
Celebrating 35 years and honoring its founder Mama Rolia Manyongai-Jones, Kúkátónón Children’s African Dance Troupe will offer a fundraising performance to support it’s weekly tuition-free classes and culturally specific performances. The evening will feature dance performances by the Kúkátónón Children’s African Dance Troupe, a traditional West African meal, and the chances to win great prizes.

Now directed by Dana Shephard, Kúkátónón focuses on inspiring confidence among the troupe’s dancers and broadening awareness of African and African American cultural traditions throughout Oregon. The company offers tuition-free African dancing, drumming, and classical ballet lessons on a weekly basis, taught by professional music and dance instructors.

Giselle
Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema Live from Moscow
Presented by Fathom Events
12:55 pm April 8
Click on the link for participating theatres and locations
This romantic ballet in two acts, originally performed in 1841 by Italian ballerina Carlotta Grisi, follows Giselle as she learns that her beloved (Albrecht) is promised to another. After dying from a broken heart, she returns from the dead as a vengeful spirit and makes Albrecht dance to his death.

Captured live in 2015, Giselle is choreographed by Yuri Grigorovich with music by Adolphe Adam, and will be performed by Svetlana Zakharova (Giselle) and Sergei Polunin (Albrecht).

Noontime Showcase: Jefferson Dancers
Presented by Portland’5
12 pm April 9
Antoinette Hatfield Hall, 1111 SW Broadway
One of Portland’s oldest, pre-professional dance companies, directed by Steve Gonzales, the Jefferson Dancers will perform as part of the Portland’5 noon time showcases-free-bite size entertainment that fits into your lunch break.

The Jefferson Dancers annual spring concert will be April 26- 28.

Butoh artist Maureen Fleming performing in Axis Mundi. Photo courtesy of Water in the Desert.

Axis Mundi
Maureen Fleming
Presented by Water in the Desert as part of Butoh College 2018
8 pm April 11
The Headwaters Theatre, 55 NE Farragut St. #4
Created by American Butoh artists Maureen Fleming, Axis Mundi is an evening-length work that explores the human search for transcendence through metaphorical images.

Born in Japan, Fleming trained in both ballet and Butoh, and performed with famed Butoh artists Min Tanaka with Kazuo Ohno. She attributes her movement studies to a childhood bicycle accident that injured her spine, causing her to create movement that twisted and spiraled away from the injury.

As part of Butoh College 2018, Fleming will teach a workshop from April 12-15 that utilizes imagery, massage, and her original physical training system called FLEMING ELASTXX ™ that uses elastic bands as a tool for training the body in flexibility and strength.

Upcoming Performances

April
April 12-14, Contact Dance Film Festival, presented by BodyVox and Northwest Film Center
April 12-21, Man/Woman, choreography by Mikhail Fokine, Darrell Grand Moultrie, Nicolo Fonte, James Canfield, Jiří Kylián, performed by Oregon Ballet Theatre
April 13-28, My Turn: A Claire Underwood Story, TriptheDark Dance Company
Apr 14-25, Peer Gynt with Orchestra Next, Eugene Ballet Company, Eugene
April 14-15, Oregon Bird Sketches, Agnieszka Laska Dancers
April 18, Original Bad Unkl Sistas, Mizu Desierto and Anastazia Aranga, Presented by Water in the Desert
April 19-28, Early, push/FOLD, choreographed and directed by Samuel Hobbs
April 20-21, In layers, choreography by Jana Kristi Zahler
April 20-29, X-Posed, Polaris Dance Theatre, Robert Guitron
April 22, Anastazia Aranga and Mizu Desierto: student performance/offering, Presented by Water in the Desert
April 24-25, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, presented by White Bird
April 24-25, The Wind and the Wild, BodyVox and Chamber Music Northwest
April 25, Degenerate Art Ensembel/Haruko “Crow” Nishimura + Joshua Kohl, Presented by Water in the Desert
APRIL 29, Degenerate Art Ensemble: Student Performance/Offering, Presented by Water in the Desert

May
May 4-5, Current/Classic, The Portland Ballet
May 10-12, New work premiere, Rainbow Dance Theatre, Western Oregon University, Monmouth
May 10-19, Rain & Roses (world premiere), BodyVox
May 11-13, Compose, PDX Contemporary Ballet
May 11-13, Alice in Wonderland, Ballet Fantastique, Eugene
May 14, Noontime Showcase: OBT2, Presented by Portland’5
May 16, Ballet Hispȧnico, presented by White Bird
May 17-20, CRANE, The Holding Project, directed by Amy Leona Havin
May 23-June 3, Closer, original works by the dancers of Oregon Ballet Theatre

June
June 8-10, Up Close, The Portland Ballet
June 10, Coppelia, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema Live from Moscow
June 14-16, World Premiere – Ihsan Rustem, MemoryHouse – Sarah Slipper, NW Dance Project
June 15-17, New Expressive Works Residency Performance
June 24, Salem World Beat, Rainbow Dance Theatre, Salem

 

2 Responses. Have your say.

  1. Jack Gabel says:

    RE: Butoh, it’s a remarkably flexible art form – unforgettable is the performance I attended while living in Japan (late 80s) of a touring multimedia group from Montreal, where Butoh dancers performed in the lobby, their sculpturesque, mini-motion sequences – one here, another there, several around the lobby, accented the space like human furniture

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