Review: Being Moved at Headwaters

As I get better I am getting out more. As getting out more tires me less I know am I closer to being able to make it through a whole work day. In case anyone was wondering why I’m doing things here and there but not yet back at work. Brain surgery stuff aside let’s talk Butoh.

At the turn of the last century a woman named Isadora Duncan planted the seed of modern dance with the concept of “naturalistic movement.” The idea being that instead of stances, postures, poses and patterns the dance should be a flow of emotions and nature. Her work was met with shock and horror by many of the Victorians of the time.

Butoh holds a similar place in Japanese culture. It is avant garde performance art sometimes called “anti-dance dance” where the object is not grace but experience and expression and often the awkward or shocking is paramount. It reminds me a bit of the Jim Rose Circus but with much less Discordianism and a greater sense of Art.

Saturday night I went to see Being Moved at the Headwaters Theatre with my friend Molly. The long title is “Meshi Chavez presents Being Moved | Ten dancers were chosen to embark on a journey of self inquiry, transformation and creation… a butoh workshop performance”

The performance was split into two parts, the first was four students who had partaken in a workshop with Meshi and the second (post intermission) was a performance by Meshi.

To begin I want to say that Lisa DeGrace, Adrian Hutapea and Roland Toledo did an amazing job with the music. Having had some experience with electronica, sampling and noise manipulation in the 1990s I admire what they did for this performance. I would gladly go to a concert just to experience any of those three in combination again or with others.

I spoke to a Japanese friend afterwards about having seen a Butoh performance and she stated she didn’t like Butoh. She said the goal seemed to make one feel awkward or uncomfortable.

To me the performers with their strange body shape movements and angular inclinations were both inhuman and the perfect expression of what it is to be human. I kept thinking “This is what it is to be human.” There were moments of intense emotion, feelings expressed by the dancers that seemed to dig through my own experiences and bring to surface personal regrets. There were also moments where I felt myself pull back and think “this is ridiculous, this writhing, this shapelessness, this not-dancing.” The push and pull of entrancement and judgement had its own interesting effect on my mind.

After the intermission Meshi performed. The curtains were drawn and he appeared almost larva like. I did not know if Meshi was male or female, beginning as female, moving to “it” and then becoming male. The sense of beauty vs the ridiculous was even stronger with Meshi. Most profound for me were the echoes of earlier performances. It was as if the teacher were echoing experiences he had learned from his students. I found it incredibly touching.

The first portion, the student performances, made me want to write poetry, which I did on my phone during the intermission. The second portion, Meshi’s work, made me want to dance again.

There are certain things I consider great or beautiful but I do not know if I would recommend. The movie The Pillow Book is one. The book Surreal Numbers is another. I found beauty in the performance and am glad to have seen it. I would have to know a person well to recommend going to another similar work. That said, when Meshi performs again in March I will probably attend.

We’ll call this one “special interest.”