Lose yourself in this dance of darkness

From Japan

Lose yourself in this  dance of darkness

with heads shaven and bodies smeared with white powder, they danced away on a meditative trance-like music; their slow-paced moves accentuating the silences in between.

Wearing white and saffron hued robes in a dark setup, the ghost-like figures on stage take you on a therapeutic journey as the lilting chimes of bells ring out in the background. Alas! It wasn’t live but just a film screening of Hibiki, a 30-minute long performance of Butoh, a Japanese dance form. Butoh, a photography exhibition by Sankai Juku Company is on in the national Capital, while the dance performers have left for Imphal and Guwahati, after enacting their act at Bharat Rang Mahotsava.

What the Delhizens are left with is a series of 27 photographs culled from 13 different performances of the group, spanning almost three decades. Sitting in the silent alcoves of the photo gallery in the Japan Foundation, what came across as a therapeutic dance form, ironically finds its origin in the aftermath of World War II.

As described in the notes of the photo exhibits, this dance form that comprises playful, grotesque imagery to express taboo topics, extreme and absurd environments, emerged in Japan post World War II, describing the state of upheaval in the Japanese society. Conventionally performed in white body makeup with hyper-controlled motion, this performance can be delivered with or without an audience. 

Perhaps, the visual screening of Hibiki on the sidelines of the photo exhibition is one such example of a performance without any audience. But it helps in exploring the dance form in detail as the visitor moves on from the stills to the visual screening of the act. From Kinkan Shonen, a young boy’s dream of the origin of life and death, shot in 1978 to Kagemi, beyond the metaphors of mirror, showing an ensemble of men in the midst of a guffaw, take you on a black and white voyage of Sankai Juku troupe’s performances, making you want to see them live in action. 

‘Butoh’, best described as a dance of darkness will be on display till February 7 at the Japan Foundation. 

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