Two elemental Butoh dance performances were brought to the CCA by Glasgow-based dancer Paul Michael Henry for two nights only.
The first piece, by Ambra G Bergamasco, is half homage to the painter Francis Bacon (whose wry, laconic voice bookends the piece, talking of the ”violence and immediacy” of his work), half her own expressionist work, Irelandbased dancer Bergamasco moves, spasming in an orange dress through a halflit space. Casting large shadows at either side of the room, she seems to be made of rubber and liable to collapse at any given time.
This slow-motion creeping is almost unbearably intense, the increasing unease compounded by the heat of the small room, blood red of the curtains and mood lighting. Occasionally, I feel like fainting watching her droop down, squeamish, almost fearful that she will not get through it. A little blood from a small cut trickles down her bare leg as she bends, almost melting, into a small orange chair. Bergamasco is almost at odds with her own body where each movement seems like a betrayal, her face contorting and eyes lolling back in their sockets as she silently screams.
Evolving into a feral creature, she eats the petals from flowers on the floor and spits them out like confetti. Reminiscent of Bacon’s disturbing Triptych Studies from the Human Body paintings from 1970,which depict distorted heads and blurred bodies, this is a unique exploration of the other. Her discomfort is our discomfort; her fears our own hidden fears.
Dhyana, by Japanese dancer Ken Mai, is based on Hindu meditation practices, and in three segments. The first seems most traditional, using a mask to depict androgyny with precise sloping hand and head gestures. When the mask is removed, Mai still disguised in white pan stick and smudged black eye make up becomes Shaman, preacher and fool, playing with ideas of self as he grimaces, smiles and scowls. He crashes hand cymbals together and violently whirls. The restriction of his corsetted costume means the focus lies on his limbs the gaze is naturally drawn to the butterflylike fluttering of his hands and sweep of his sleeves.
Once such restrictions are removed and he is naked but for patterned tights, he balances with legs splayed in absolute control of his body, poised like a statue until twitches become little explosions, and incongrously similar to ”jazz hands”, a la Bob Fosse dancers. Here, he transforms into a preening Narcissistic figure, coy and teasing, toying with expectations.
The final transition is the most startling.Now clad in a white skirt, he is almost a goddess, a geisha undertaking a bathing ritual only here, he does not use rice water and wine, rather flowers and dust on the ground. Prowling delicately around the stage then out into the crowd, he sings in an incredible falsetto, and it is utterly hypnotic. It rings around the room unamplified, and the space is transformed into a beautiful sacred temple.