It's 1961,and you're on a deserted street corner in Tokyo. You look to and fro for a saber-tooth tiger, but nary a one is to be found. (Weird.) All you see are closed-up storefront windows, and colorful lanterns bobbing gently in the breeze. It's deathly quiet...
Suddenly, the pristine silence is shattered by a swarm of ninjas! Darting and leaping with lethal precision, they move—like a swarm of wasps!—towards you.
•If you want to fight the ninjas click here
•If you want to try to befriend the ninjas, click here.
•If you want to learn about Butoh—an art form that ORIGINATED in Japan during this time period (wow!)—and Butoh artist Michael Sakamoto, read on!
To go back, click here.
Los Angeles artist Michael Sakamoto works Woody Allen-esque threads of absurdist humor into Butoh-influenced movement explorations of dark emotion and chaos. In Portland this weekend, he'll present some of his solo works, including an improvised, divisive interpretation of Stravinsky's "The Rite of Spring."
Butoh is a movement notorious for being hard to describe. Can you, uh, try?
Butoh is very hard to define because it is everything and nothing at all, and once you define it you sort of lose it. It informally began in late '50s Japan; they'd gone through the horrific wartime experience with the atom bomb, etc., and there was a pretty intense sector of the population that began to create forms of art that incorporated that sense of chaos in their lives. It's very asymmetrical, and the imagery is often very grotesque because you're channeling this primal energy.
How does Butoh manifest in your work?
It's both the physical and spiritual core. I choreograph through improvisational structures; I create a character and a situation, and I use that raw material to structure an emotional narrative. It changes every time I perform it anew.
Butoh sounds pretty serious, and yet your work is very funny; how do you reconcile the two worlds?
There's an absurdity behind everything; we all feel and love and think and hate, and that causes us to behave a certain way day after day. I express those things through an absurd filter, and it sits with the audience and resonates more. It's interesting to contrast absurd comedy and really dark primal emotion.