The cliches of butoh are well-known: nude bodies painted white; twisting, often agonizingly slow movement; undercurrents of violence and despair. The 1959 piece acknowledged to have begun the movement–Tatsumi Hijikata’s Kinjiki, inspired by Yukio Mishima’s novel Forbidden Colors–included among other bizarre events the slaughter of a chicken. Hijikata, Kazuo Ohno, and Akira Kasai formed the triumvirate of early butoh in Japan, but the movement has now spread across the globe and taken on as many shadings as there are companies performing it. The 57-year-old Kasai–who appears this weekend at the Dance Center of Columbia College–formed a Japanese company in the 70s, disbanded it in 1979, moved to Germany to study eurythmy in the 80s, and returned to Japan and butoh in the early 90s. Eurythmy, more a system of thought than a school of movement, seems the antithesis of the often dark and subversive butoh: as defined by Rudolf Steiner in the early 20th century, eurythmy captures in movement the harmonious spiritual essence of Western literature and music. Here Kasai and two other dancers will perform his Tinctura-2, of which Kasai has said, “Dance is a phenomenon of colors, or tinctures, generated by the body–a triangular prism, irradiated by a light. Then, where does the light itself come from?” Sounds pretty eurythmical to me, though an earlier work I watched on video was set to rock music and filled with martial-arts posturing and frantic spasms. Thursday, March 16, through Saturday at 8 at the Dance Center of Columbia College, 4730 N. Sheridan; $20. Call 773-989-3310 for tickets and information. (Kasai will also offer an intermediate-level class in butoh Wednesday at 6:30 in the dance studio of the Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington. And he’ll take part in an artists’ forum next Saturday, March 25, during the 5-8 PM opening reception for “Crossing the Contemporary Divide: Five Asian Artists Address Alienation and Consciousness” at Fassbender Gallery, 835 W. Washington. Call 773-989-3310 for information on both events.)
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Teijiro Kamiyama.