Occasionally when I see a certain performance advertised I get this felling where I know I have to make myself get there. Its a bit like that feeling when you first meet someone you are attracted to and you know something is going to happen between you. When I saw an advert for a performance of Marie Gabriel Rotie's solo 'Mythic' I got that feeling.
Mythic 'draws inspiration from the 19th Century spiritualist photographs of mediums conjuring the departed and from Butoh founder Tatsumi Hijikata's assertion that to dance is to 'shake hands with the dead'. It is a meditation on life, death and loss'.
For two weeks during the summer term of my second year at NSCD (the Northern School of Contemporary Dance) Marie Gabriel Rotie taught us Butoh every afternoon. Butoh, according to the Butoh UK website, 'arose post-Horoshima and post-American Occupation of Japan in the late 1950's and arose from the social and political climate reflected in artistic practices both in Japan and Europe......What began as a deliberate rejection of conventional western dance technique and the constraints of traditional Japanese Theatre developed into a strong undergroung, avant-garde movement...'
Its quite hard to define or describe what Butoh 'is' in terms of movement, but from my very limited physical experience Butoh and the two Butoh performances I have seen, I would say the following; Butoh is generally image or emotionally driven and incorporates the whole body, including the face. Also, it uses the concept of time differently to contemporary dance in that movements can be performed over long periods of time.
Although Butoh is not something I would want to specialise in personally, working with Marie Garbriel, and bringing Butoh in to my sphere of knowledge, has definitely benefited my dance and creativity. It show me another way to use my body and another aesthetic.
Saturday's performance inspired me and made me think for a number of reasons. Firstly, as a 'young' (I'm not so young in age..I am refering more to my life stage..i.e recently graduated) woman at the start of my career it is always inspiring to see successful, established female artists performing work with a strong sense of identity.
It was also amazing to see Marie Gabriel's use of her body - it was one intricate, fluid whole. Every single part of her body was incorporated at some point. I think in relation to contemporary dance people often perceive Butoh too be 'less physical' or more static, but wacthing Mythic I was amazed how much movement there was, and on such a detailed level.
In an aesthetical terms there are certain things that don't appeal to me about Butoh, such as the grimacing face or Butoh feet (hard to decribe, but Butoh encourages the use of all sides of the feet so sometimes performers walk on the outside edge of their feet or also make them like cupped hands) but on Saturday it made me question what we define as 'beautiful' in contemporary dance, and also how much it is concerned with 'beauty'. For me the 'ugly' (I am struggling to find the right words here) elements of Butoh puts its performers in a much more vulnerable place, its much more exposing as an art form, and this is beautiful. But what also struck me in Marie Gabriel's performance was her ability to shift between these states, for example old grimacing woman to serene beauty. It was truly amazing to see transformations happening before my eyes.
Visually Mthic was stunning, with some beautiful images created through well used props, and a particularly creative and effective video by Ian Pons Jewell. I am not a fan of videos in 'dance' pieces, but this one actually added something, something dark and mysterious, to the work.
All in all a very beautiful performance I am glad I witnessed.