This Paris-based, 35-year-old all-male butoh company has performed in more than 700 cities. Now, in a one-night stand, it’s finally making its Chicago debut. As a so-called second-generation member of Japan’s butoh elite, artistic director Ushio Amagatsu has a reputation for making kinder, gentler work than butoh originators Tatsumi Hijikata and Kazuo Ohno. Yet it’s still plenty challenging. Amagatsu’s 90-minute Hibiki: Resonance From Far Away, the 1998 sextet being performed here, is dun-colored and slow, like Beckett on major downers. No words are spoken, but you can imagine despairing mantras being chanted. What’s the point? A dark, still beauty grows out of the meditative pace and striking imagery. The performance area is ringed with a dozen huge, shallow glass bowls containing water; by the time the water turns blood red in one of them, the dancers have donned corsets whose red lacing suggests surgical scars and their long, pale skirts appear stained with crimson drops. The movement feels intuitive, rather than imposed by the choreographer, and a score by Takashi Kako and Yoichiro Yoshikawa travels from almost imperceptible quiet to ominous, booming echoes.
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