Tuesday, August 4, 2009

minimal spectacle

One moment from the past few days that I must share:
Ka-Ge, a director/choreographer coming to the Lab from Thailand led a small Butoh workshop a few days ago and it has been the afterimage on my eyelids when I close them since. He is a great teacher but he also has a gift for movement that has the dual effect of moving you to stock-still awe, AND he makes it look so magical-- of course you want to try it.
The video below is not so similar to what we were doing but it does give a sense. Many of the videos on youtube can be watched but not embedded. I found the Sankai Juku ones especially compelling. If you are interested there is a lot of material online-- one thing that is important to know though is that this a 'modern' form. It was created post-WWII and very much in response to the physical and emotional pain, loss and decay Japan was suffering. It is sometimes called the 'Dance of Darkness.'
Perhaps because Ka-Ge is a natural comedian he led us to dark somber places but also shaped scenarios where we all couldn't stop laughing. In one exercise a group of six of us were 'high-so' (high-society) and at a cocktail party. Very slowly, with minimal movement over a short span of music (he was playing the theme song to The Godfather no less) we moved into a position for a group portrait. Over a count of ten each we moved as one into the zenith-point of three expressions--happiness/laughter --> anger --> sadness. Then over another ten count we morphed into dancing-- where at most you could move maybe A finger or A shoulder. It was surprisingly funny.
In another exercise we took about ten minutes or so to walk across the floor, he would call out sort of visual/environmental cues, and remind us that the wind was moving through our hair, the we could feel the sunlight on our faces, that while we were moving forward there was also a strong force, a wind, the weight of the past, pulling us back. We attempted to make manifest all of these environmental elements in every physical movement. As we got near to the other side he said we were almost at the ocean, we could see it, we had almost arrived. Then, a drop of rain fell on us. Soon, more drops, and eventually, the sky opened up and poured down. He told us we were made of salt, and the rain was making us weak, like a melting candle, we were dripping down, crumbling. The rain got less but we were already crumbled on the ground; our forms gone. The sun was shining again but we were cracking in the sun now. We were just heaps of salt drying up on the ground.
The craziest thing about this was I really had a sensory experience of being an old woman. Very very old. I felt like myself in my body, but my body was different, it didn't listen to me, it didn't respond the way I asked it to. I felt very weak and when I looked down I saw all the wrinkles and folds and all of the thoughts from my life starting passing over me. Not just the life I have led up to now either-- but I felt like I could see the future. And I know this sounds crazy, but I felt like I could see and feel my moment of expiration. My own death. It was very strange and surreal. And powerful.
I was always afraid I was going to die when I was young (especially because of some health problems I had when I was little, and also, not liking airplanes etc.) but if this flash-forward was true-- I will die a natural death, as a very, very old woman.

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