An Homage to Dawn and Dusk through Butoh Dance


WordsRebecca Zissmann

Darkness. Light. Bodies appear onstage, covered in white powder, almost naked, catching the eye. They move slowly, enunciate each movement, analyse it as if to find its essence. Then, all of a sudden, they twist. The movements that make up this choreography are often unexpected. This is the principle of butoh, a radical form of contemporary dance which was born out of the ashes of post-war Japan and which expresses the idea of nothingness and the death wish of a population left disorientated by defeat and the atomic bomb.

Arc – Chemin du Jour is the new creation from choreographer Ushio Amagatsu and will be shown, in a world exclusive, at the Théâtre de la Ville at the end of April. Part of the second generation of Butoh dancers, after founders Kazuo Ohno and Tatsumi Hijikata, Ushio Amagatsu formed his dance company Sankai Juku in 1975. This ‘studio by the mountain and the sea’, two fundamental elements in Japan, places Nature at the very heart of its performances. Here, it is dawn and dusk which are showcased by the seven dancers in a ‘chemin du jour’, a ‘path of day’, which transports the audience to a different time.

The emotion that emanates from the purity of the gestures, and more particularly from the meticulous execution of ports de bras, coupled with the exaggerated facial expressions and the traditional steps, lend a hypnotic quality to the performance. This is all the truer due to the starkness of the staging and the minimal nature of the accessories, which showcase the virtuosity of the performers. For the first time, Ushio Amagatsu is not with them onstage. He considered that the show belonged to the dancers, and allowed them to interpret it. The audience too, whether new to or knowledgeable about the codes of butoh dance, will let themselves be touched by its gracefulness.