Review- I Am NOT a Butoh Artist- HKPFF



By: Meaghan McGurgan


Butoh is a really interesting style of performance. For those that have never seen it before it can be a bit jarring at times. This is why I'm always interested in going to see performances when I have a chance. Butoh is an avant-garde style of theatre, that has its origins in Japan.


After WW2, Japan was a country in transition. It was a country still holding onto its traditional values while being forced into the western world. During this time there was much unrest and protest. Butoh was built from these contrasts. It celebrates the distortions in life.


Butoh loosely translated means stomp dance or earth dance. The original creators of this style of art believed that by distorting the body and by moving slowly on bent legs they could get away from the traditional idea of the beauty and return to a more organic natural idea. For the performers at Norma-phobic, a self-declared bunch of "Butoh enthusiasts", I was excited to see them explore this art form and what it could or could not be.


They described the show as such in the program: "This is absolutely not a butoh performance. This is a concept, or questions on Butoh and the identity of “Butoh Artist” asked by two local emerging Butoh Artists of Norma-phobia. What is Butoh? Are there any requirements for Butoh Artist? Are these a must? Is the demonstration of stereotypical movements a butoh performance?" So by exploring what Butoh isn't, these artists seek to explore what their art form really is. Are you confused yet? Bear with me...


Performers Ioku Ero Nikaido and Kiwi Chan are spectactular physical artists. They're athletes. They have a way of controlling their bodies and isolating muscles that is captivating to watch. If you've never seen Butoh before, these are the kind of people you want to watch doing it. They've spent years mastering the art form.


The performance was short. It lasted a little less than an hour but left you wanting more. With a physical performance like this style of show and little to no theatricality to hide the performers, it was best to keep the show shorter and keep the quality high. For 120HKD I wasn't disappointed with the quality or duration of the show. It was simplicity in its finest form and dedicated performers showing their craft.


Now, back to the show's original premise... Can we explore the workings of an art form by exploring what it is not? For me as an audience member, this concept didn't come through as strongly as I hoped. I think for those who have a strong understanding of what Butoh is, it was easier for them to grasp the larger concept of the production. For those of us who are still learning what Butoh is, the larger themes of the show were a bit murky. Thematics aside, this show was still incredibly enjoyable and truly beautiful. Highly recommended, Butoh enthusiast or not.


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