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Shake Your Butoh 

Bodily fluids, nudity, fake genital mutilation: the outrageous dance-theater of Dairakudakan

Wednesday, Jun 25 2003
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Often described as raw, shocking, powerful, and perverse, Dairakudakan is regarded as one of the most spectacular butoh dance companies to emerge since the genre's creation in post-atomic-bomb Japan. Founded in 1972 by butoh master Akaji Maro, Dairakudakan confounds and enchants audiences with its radical form of dance-theater. Butoh is usually associated with slow gestures, white body paint, and strange, contorted choreography, but Dairakudakan doesn't always fit those stereotypes.

As part of its 30th anniversary, the troupe embarked on an international tour, presenting Kochuten: Paradise in a Jar, a series of surprising and strange scenes that feature 10 men in white body paint and flesh-colored G-strings moving fluidly between comedic theater and bizarre, unpredictable dance progressions. As one would expect of butoh, a form created in the spirit of rebellion and unorthodoxy, Kochuten is an irreverent manifesto of sorts, a physical exploration of themes such as the search for self and the conflict between the individual and the communal.

Moving to a musical backdrop of rock, reggae, opera, and Japanese pop, the skilled dancer-actors have an astonishing ability to transform their actions and facial expressions from gleeful to ghoulish, grotesque to graceful. In one particularly dramatic vignette, a dancer seems to explore his deep and complex relationship with a squat, round table: The inanimate object serves convincingly as a source of comfort, frustration, anger, and love. Dairakudakan is also reputed for its outrageous and seditious humor, and Kochuten features a scene that involves dancers chopping off their penises (they use hot dogs) with a kitchen knife while howling perversely; the troupe has been known to utilize bodily fluids and nudity in past productions. Now, Kochuten showcases the next generation of one of Japan's most acclaimed companies.

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Bernice Yeung

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