Sunday, July 23, 2017

Wreck Beach Butoh 2018

Owing to unexpected summer teaching commitments, I was unable to participate in Kokoro Dance's annual Wreck Beach Butoh process. This was disappointing, as I had hoped to make it three years in a row. That said, I did drop in on a couple of free morning classes down at KW Studios over the past two weeks, and so I got a glimpse of what Barbara and Jay were putting together this year. I also got to say hello to some of WBB's returning crew: Tuan and Keith and Bronwyn and Leslie and Noriko and Yvonne. It was a kick to be dancing in KW's new atrium studio, as we had a built-in audience from everyone who happened to be hanging out or wandering through the basketball courts at SFU Woodward's.

This morning, I made my way to Wreck Beach to see the weekend's final performance. I'd told Barbara that I would volunteer to carry one of Kokoro's red donation buckets, and also to police anyone trying to take photos. I proved to be a surprisingly good enforcer on both counts. Otherwise, I just generally enjoyed being a spectator, which I admit meant indulging in some relief at not having to go into and (even worse) get out of the water this year: though the sun was out and things got progressively warmer as the performance went on, there was a strong wind throughout.

There was some repeat choreography that I recognized: the pirate laughs and the tick tock walk and the ecstasy jumps, for example. But the core of this year's work was a central section that involved the dancers torquing their torsos toward the sun and gently turning in the breeze, and then drawing one arm up the other and across the face in a sequence that initiates a danced exploration of the senses. It was quite moving and tender to watch, especially in the way that the dancers moved into and out of unison. However, there was also some cheekiness--quite literally--as Barbara led the dancers in a group ass grab and wiggle directed at the audience.

The start of each WBB is always memorable, and this year I was struck by the fact that the slow and sensuously gestural unison walk toward the water by the clustered group of white painted dancers was accompanied by a chorus of sounds. Various other whoops and caws recurred throughout the piece, but this opening sequence of movement and sound was especially unique.

One final thing I noted was the way in which I was able to anticipate the directional flow of much of the choreography. To be sure, Barbara and Jay generally begin with a southward trajectory along the beach following the dancers' emergence from the water, before doubling back on themselves. However, I also think my instinctive knowledge of when and where to walk contained within it residual kinetic memories of having danced in previous WBB performances. Whatever the case, it was a nice feeling to have.


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