Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Wreck Beach Butoh Boot Camp 2016: Day 1

I guess I like pain. How else to explain my decision to fly back earlier than planned from a sojourn in Europe in order to put my body through the rigours of another Wreck Beach Butoh boot camp? Or maybe it's just that, after last year, I have a better sense of what lies on the other side of the nine-day rehearsal process in the studio: a truly transcendent experience on the beach.

A few things are different this year. We are a smaller group: 13 instead of 21, with all but two of us returnees. We're also rehearsing at Harbour Dance instead of EDAM, which makes for a slightly longer commute (but also more lunch options). (Originally the plan was to work out of the new Kokoro space at the Woodward's complex, but Barbara had said in class weeks ago that the renovations wouldn't be complete.) Then there's the fact that the actual performances this year will be in the morning, which regardless of whether or not the sun is shining means that it will be colder--because, as Barbara put it, at that hour the sun hasn't actually made it over the side of the Tower Beach cliff edge. Finally, we were informed that most if not all of the choreography this year would be new, so no relying on past storehouses of corporeal memory, even for WBB veterans like Tuan and Irene and Henry and Bronwen and Molly.

In fact, Molly is somewhat at an advantage. Not only, as a professional dancer of innate and distinctive talent does she absorb kinetic instruction more quickly than the rest of us, but as a Kokoro company member who takes class regularly with both Barbara and Jay, she has experienced and been involved over the past few months in testing out the movement ideas of each for this year's WBB performance. As someone who tries to take Barbara's Friday morning class as often as possible, I have had a taste of this, having learned and practiced with her at least three different movement phrases that she is considering for the piece--my favourite, despite how exhausting it is, being what I'll call the monkey step. But it appears that Jay, together with Molly, has already developed much more material--almost 35 minutes worth, we were told. That perhaps explains why he took the lead in instruction yesterday, teaching us five different sequences he's been working on: some partnered bumping; a tick-tock walk in second position demi-plie that also involves full turns en dehors (something I have to work on); a series of backwards and forwards lunges and arm waves; an upright cat-cow walk, also with arms; and a bit that involved miming the picking up of a seed and putting it back on the tree from whence it fell. We repeated all of these sequences several times, receiving constant notes for improvement (as expected), and with Jay and Barbara yelling as much at each other as at us (also as expected).

A unique part of Jay and Barbara's process is, as I've partially outlined above, the fact that despite always collaborating on the choreography of each WBB piece (like most of the work they develop with Kokoro), they work on their sections separately, only bringing them together in the actual two-week boot camp rehearsal process. That means they, like us, are each experiencing the other's choreography for the first time; it also means they feel free to criticize that choreography, or at least the delivery of it, openly and loudly. Such was the case yesterday with Barbara, who especially had much to comment on regarding the timing of the bump sequence. This lead to the first all-out screaming match between she and Jay; it came a little earlier in the process than usual, but it definitely won't be the last. As Jay explained their working method yesterday, we'll experiment with lots of different ways of doing the movement over the next two weeks, and throughout he and Barbara will fight about what works best. And then, in the end, we'll do it Barbara's way.

None of us would have it any other way.


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