The Japanese dance-theatre form butoh can be intense. Intense for the performer, who cycles through a range of emotional expressions throughout a production, as well as for the viewer, who watches dutifully as this usually slow, nonlinear, and imagistic performance unfolds.
The second part of the evening is called “Life” and is introduced by the projected paintings of costume designer and artist Tsuneko Kokubo. The projections revolve through a series by Kokubo called "Plant Memory"—all featuring very colourful but abstract plants. The movement vocabulary is amplified now and the dancers move freely throughout the space. Having changed to silky dresses with plant-life patterns, each explores his or her own solo with individualistic focus.
It’s this focus that prevented the piece from becoming something more than four solos next to each other. Overlapping solos can often take on new forms, as accidental duets, or a contrasting trio, but those moments were hardly found because the dancers were so inside their own worlds.
Each performer alone was a wonder to watch but something bigger was missing between them all. And this missing link prevented “Life” from transforming into something new. That was, at least, my experience—and the beauty of this indefinable art form is that it could be different for you.