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Photo: Lambie Brothers.

A Butoh magical night

Last year Yumino Seki performed her exhilarating Butoh show Hyakki Yakou, A Night Walk of a Hundred Demons, to sell-out houses out at the Hastings Museum and Art Gallery; loads of people were turned away but HOT’s Lauris Morgan-Griffiths was lucky enough to see it.

This year Yumino was performing Manjusaka, a work in progress. It is always interesting to see a dance or play evolving, growing and blossoming; not fully formed.

Manjusaka is inspired by the eponymous flower in the amaryllis family.  In the Buddhist tradition the equinoxes are believed to be openings where the dead and living converge. In Japan, the manjusaka has long been associated with ancestors because of its vivid red colour and its flowering time –  it bursts into flower at the autumn equinox.

Manjusaka © Sin Bozkurt

Manjusaka (© Sin Bozkurt).

On the floor red light snakes over the floor of St Mary in the Castle’s concert hall gloom. Three figures in white step onto a small circular lit stage and begin to twist and turn, making a rhythmic fluttering sound with their lips. Their arms flow, tracing the air. After a while I notice Yumino’s hand has twisted into a claw. They continue dancing, but their movements become more contorted as they sink and lower themselves into the ground to death-like stillness. A somewhat agonised death; to a fellow member of the audience it was reminiscent of Hiroshima.

Yumino’s work is part dance, installation, light and soundscape – a meeting of eastern and western culture. It is near impossible to describe the performance. There were several different sequences. One, the two other dancers – Alison Grace and Fabiola Santana – moved individually either side of a line. Some of the movements were flowing and lyrical, others awkward, almost clumsy – as if life does not always flow forward with ease. To begin with, the two dancers dance independently, each almost oblivious of the other. Then, with a  growing awareness of the presence of another, they peer at each other, recognition grows, and slowly walk off side by one – two individuals as if acknowledging the similarities of the human species, the human condition.

In any art form  the audience’s experience can be deepened by giving space for the viewers’ own thoughts and interpretation. However, in this instance, Butoh being a very different type of dance from another culture –which makes it fascinating and intriguing – I would have found it useful to have a loose description of the performance.  It does not need a full explanation of Yumino’s thinking but a sketchy outline would give it a deeper meaning while still leaving space for one to add one’s own experience.

All three join again on a round stage, lit from underneath, leaning into the light, their faces entwining, shadows transforming them into godlike images. Then a strange, energetic horse riding, all three dancers galloping, flying full tilt into the future, while staying in the same place.

The lighting and music contribute to the mystical feel of the piece. The snake of lighting changes from red to blue to white and transforms the environment. The music, composed by Nick Weekes, mirrors the other worldliness of the dance; the sound reflects the  magical, natural and spiritual world, the ghosts of ancestors combining to engender the feeling of an ancient atmosphere.

The whole experience was beautiful, disturbing and odd. I look forward to seeing the work in progress evolving and growing into a future performance.

Yumino’s website.

Posted 14:52 Wednesday, Sep 17, 2014 In: Performance

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