By Lily Dolin, Staff Writer
Many Valentine’s Day plans involve flowers, movies, and candle-lit dinners. Most don’t feature listening to solemn bells chime while watching interpretations of a popular Japanese dance style. Yet for those who attended “I Love Butoh!” at Triskelion Arts in Brooklyn, that is exactly what they got. In association with Vangeline Theater and The New York Butoh Institute, the show explored different types of relationships through emotion and movement.
Performed in a cozy, warmly lit theater before a full audience, the show featured two acts with very different styles of Butoh. Butoh itself is a difficult art form to define. An avant-garde dance from Japan, it closely resembles performance art in many ways and is often concerned with movement in relation to social issues and surrealism. Historically, Butoh has been performed by near-naked dancers in white makeup, but the genre has evolved since then.
The first act, performed by Madelyn Sher, was more contemporary than expressionist. She began her dance by sitting on the floor, watching a video play out on a large screen. She sang softly as the video ended and left the stage briefly, only to return clad in winter clothing. As she removed her winter layers, plush hearts fell from her sleeves, shoes and hat. She used the hearts as her main props for much of the dance, throwing them and tracing shapes with them on the floor.
Sher’s piece took the audience through the stages of a relationship. From the first discovery of connection, the blissfulness of love to the heartbreak of love lost. Her dancing was graceful and meaningful, yet her facial expressions stole the show. Sher has the amazing ability to display a full range of emotions on her face, from humorous surprise to blissful agony. The success of her piece lay largely in her ability to connect with the audience at every point in the dance.
After a brief intermission, Mari Osanai took the stage. Osanai, who is originally from Japan, treated the audience to a more traditional interpretation of Butoh. Dressed in all black with sheer pantyhose pulled across her face, Osanai commanded the floor with her movements. “There wasn’t a moment in which she wasn’t moving in some way,” said fellow Butoh dancer and Osanai student Andy Kriger. Indeed, her performance was one long experimentation in movement. Every second of the piece, including the moments in which she was just breathing, connected together to create a cohesive experience. Osanai was clearly experienced, as evidenced by the decision in her movements.
As opposed to Sher’s piece, there wasn’t much traditional music in the second act. Instead, Osanai danced to sounds to the city, clanking metal and at times silence. Her performance ran a bit on the long side, making it easy for the mind to drift other places.
“I Love Butoh!” was a unique and unorthodox Valentine’s Day treat for new and returning fans of the art form, and for anyone interested in exploring emotion through dance.