Japan is unique in its placement between Asia and the West, between the very old and the newest of the new. No Asian country has so aped the United States; no country in the world can boast more extant ancient traditions. And the power of both a long history and the mad swirl of modernity informs Japanese contemporary dance. It’s marked by images of utter confusion, total resignation, and transcendent serenity, often masterfully incorporating non-Japanese techniques and transforming the traditional Japanese love of nature and harmony into something ultramodern. Butoh, the Dance of Darkness, stands out from the rest of Japanese dance for its assertiveness in a culture known for spiritual passivity, and for its fierce originality within an arts tradition often defined by refinement of borrowed forms and practices. However, an almost rabid hunger for the new can be found throughout the history of Japanese performance art. Shinpi No Bi (“Mysterious Beauty”), the festival being offered by the Dance Center of Columbia College, opens with Buto-Sha Tenkei (“Heavenly Birds in the Sky”), founded by members of Dai Rakuda Kan, Japan’s most spectacular butoh group. Next is Uno Man, whose scheduled duet with 80-year-old dance pioneer Shigo-Miyako has the potential to illuminate traditions within traditions. Next month, March 6-8, features Kazuco Takemoto in a movement idiom embracing ballet and modern as well as Japanese forms. The festival closes with Eiko & Koma, March 13-16, a husband-and-wife team whose performances reveal a mystery and profundity unlike anything else in the dance world. At the Dance Center of Columbia College, 4730 N. Sheridan, Eiko & Koma at the Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E. Chicago. See listings for times; call 773-989-3310 for tickets and information. –Joseph Houseal

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Buto-Sha Tankei photo.