Interpreting disease and the self through avant-garde Japanese danceAug 19th, 2011 | By | Category: Partner Publication - FringeArts
Joseph Thomas first encountered Butoh during an acting class exercise at the California Institute of the Arts, in which students were asked to move from one side of a room to another within the span of a single hour – using the entire hour.
“At the time, the exercise seemed pretty meaningless–it was just a task to complete. But a year later I finally realized that the point wasn’t to get to the other wall, but to experience the journey between the two walls,” Thomas, a South Jersey native, says.
Butoh, a Japanese avant-garde form of movement, appeared after the Second World War as a counter-statement to the contemporary Japanese dance scene, which Butoh practitioners saw as overly imitative of Western and traditional dance. Butoh is often characterized by slow, deliberate, and irregular contortions of the body, performed in full-body white make-up. The effect is both eerie and compelling.
Thomas’s 35-minute program called “White Light” is comprised of two pieces. One, entitled “David,” was inspired by Thomas’s brother’s battle with Evans syndrome, a rare autoimmune disorder in which the immune system attacks the body’s own blood cells.
“I’ve always felt as though I’ve lived a pain-free existence in comparison to my brother. I asked him to describe his experience with Evans syndrome in an e-mail, and now I’m taking what he’s written and attempting to embody it through Butoh . . . so that I can experience his pain and embarrassment, too.”
The disease is idiosyncratic–the cause is unknown, and it may be that the cause differs depending on the individual.
The other piece in “White Light” will be fully improvised to a soundscape composed by Michael Pisaro, chair in music composition at the Herb Alpert School of Music at CalArts. It will explore themes of consciousness and selfhood.
“White Light” will run for nine performances at the 954 Dance Movement Collective, from Friday, September 2nd, to Saturday, September 17th, as part of the Philly Fringe Festival. Tickets are $8. For more information, schedule and to purchase tickets, go to http://ticketing.theatrealliance.org/sites/livearts/details.aspx?id=19452