By: Mauren Coulter


In a small, shabby Wan Chai flat a young woman sits on the edge of a black sofa, her back to the door, her face to the windows. Motionless. A flimsy gauze curtain hangs between the woman and the audience. A young man ritualistically wipes the floor.  A group of people scramble to find a space on the floor and sit expectantly. We wait. In silence, the sitting woman starts to move. And so begins a fascinating and hypnotic evening's performance.


Butoh—a dance-drama form founded in the 1960s by the Japanese performers Hijikata Tatsui and Ohno Kazuo—has been defined as the exploration of earth and a journey into the self. What was notable about the performance by BiLOOMS was their superbly choreographed surrender to the instinctual and the non-rational that maintained its structure and never lapsed into self-indulgence.


The first piece, named “Dive into the Navel” and performed by Kiwi Chan was, as its title suggests, the earthier of the two pieces. Chan is a powerful performer and her muscular control and use of space were fascinating. One of the most powerful moments was when she lay on her back and walked her feet along the wall. Another was when she bent over with her back to the audience and threaded her hands between her thighs where they performed their own ritualistic dance. Reminiscent of sea anemones, the movements were both disturbing and strangely erotic. Even more disturbing was when Chan enveloped herself in a large plastic bag. But what seemed potentially life-threatening came to resemble an amniotic sac and, in the climax of the piece, she tore herself free to emerge and stand with the awkward tangled legs of a newborn calf.


The second piece, named “Fairy Tail,” performed by Ero to an eclectic minimalist score, was riveting for its exploration of identity. From his initial persona in a red hoodie and black underpants, Ero emerged vulnerable and naked except for a scarf draped over his head. With his face obscured, the focus was entirely his body whose animalistic identity was complete when his arm became a neck and his hand a head, probing and teasing the audience. The most compelling moments in Ero’s performance, however, came after he released the headscarf to enclose his body in the form of a dress and then painted his face white. The exploration of movement and its dynamic range was extraordinary, as were the subtlety and range of facial expression. It was fascinating to observe the paradox of a whitened mask-like face that could register within moments a change from tenderness to vulgarity, from vulnerability to anguish or rage.


There was also humour. One standout moment was the sustained arabesque expressing (lampooning?) the yearning traditionally ascribed to the balletic pose. Another was when Ero seemed determined to climb out of the eleventh-floor window facing onto Hennessy Road—especially humorous because a police siren sounded at that precise moment.


Such a random and unexpected event could only occur in a performing space such as 367 Hennessy Road, Wan Chai. It is worth noting too, that this is an extremely small performance space. (There are no seats for the audience.) But how liberating that is—like Butoh itself, there is freedom in constraint.


This was a stimulating and fascinating evening of dance; the commitment and integrity of the performers were exemplary. It is thrilling to see young performers offering Butoh to Hong Kong. They are a must see—but do take a cushion because you will be sitting on a hard floor.


BiLOOMS is playing through Sunday. For more information, click here.



Rate This Show: 1 2 3 4 5 Audience Rating: 5.0


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