Archivo de la categoría: Performance

IN MY SECOND YEAR , MY LIFE BEGAN TO DANCE AGAIN (2019 YEAR'S REVIEW)

I know – if you are not like me – it could be tiring to do this, but the action of making sense of the past throughout a continual revision is, for me, of the same importance as planning the future. So, I’m doing this.

After a 2018 full of attempts and a few successes (The Year I Left Behind), the year that’s just ended was full of creative work and presentations, full of achievements.

January

I received a photograph, taken in the nineties in Mexico City when I was working in “Escenologí­a”, a performing arts research institute and publishing house directed by researcher Edgar Ceballos, where my dreams of being part of a theatre company that provided the group atmosphere and creativity inspired by Jerzy Grotowski’s and the Odin Teatret’s work were almost realized. What I did achieve during those years was a very powerful and deep technical and ethical education coming from many sources linked to Grotowski and The Odin Teatret (we worked with Eugenio Barba, Julia Varley and Roberta Carrieri, just to name a few), but especially our principal and main training coach, Jaime Soriano, himself a direct disciple and collaborator with Grotowski. The contact with the different researchers Edgar Ceballos was meeting and publishing (in books and magazines) gave me, of course, a performing arts culture I was dreaming to have. Watching these photos pushed me to address the problems of working in Guangzhou; this energy and impulse came directly from the source, no doubt about it.

These are two different photographs, both with the same spirit I was talking before: one, a general photo taken when Teatro Potlach came to Escenologí­a to have a look at our work and give us some feedback; the second one, taken during the rehearsal of a piece we never premiered. Of course, the photos are cropped a bit so you can see me better.

January/February/March

Japan again!

I was expecting this moment since 2014. I had saved enough money (Japan is super expensive) for the flight, accommodation, food and fees. I was close to Tokyo (Guangzhou is less than 4 hours away by plane). I really needed to see master Yoshito Ohno and dance with him again at the Kazuo Ohno Dance Studio. And I wanted to get in touch again with all the other masters that are working in Tokyo: the great Natsu Nakajima, Yuri and Seisaku (there I had the opportunity to meet and train with Yumiko Yushioka), and Kudo Taketeru. I had the chance to have a basic workshop with Takao Kawaguchi about his experience with “About Kazuo Ohno”, and a surprisingly interesting class with two colleagues from Yoshito’s workshops, Mutsumi and Neiro.

My goal was to have a total immersion in the current Japanese Butoh world, and you bet I did. I took lessons almost every day (sometimes two different classes in different parts of the city or between two cities in one day) from the end of January till the beginning of March. I went to see dozens of performances, listening to conferences and talks, homages, exhibitions, and I even paid two visits to the Hijikata Butoh Institute at Keiko University where researcher Takashi Morishita gave me all the facilities to feel in that place like in my own personal library. One day, on my way to the Hijikata Institute, I passed by an area of old bookshops, where I found a good edition of the book “Ba-ra-kei: Ordeal by Roses” by photographer Eiko Hosoe, with images of Yukio Mishima –  both very important figures for Butoh in Japan.

My last day I interviewed Master Yoshito Ohno about his work life and his ideas of an uncertain future after his heart attack, which partially paralyzed his body.

At the moment I was writing this year’s revision I learned that – exactly one year after this visit to Japan – master Yoshito Ohno, the dancer who with Tatsumi Hijikata gave the first Butoh performance in history, son of the great Kazuo Ohno, has passed away. I am sad and I have a terrible feeling of being lost. I know that, little by little I will only feel thankful for all that I learned by listening to him and dancing with him. My thoughts and love are with his wife, his daughter Keiko and all the Ohno family, as well as with my colleagues, friends and people close to the Kazuo Ohno Dance Studio.

My life in Japan literally nourished on Butoh.

Of course, I cannot show here my whole experience in Japan, but these photographs will help me share part of it. Also, there are many other posts in this blog about my experiences during that trip:

March

March came with a surprise trip to Mongolia. I probably don’t have much to say about me and Butoh during this trip, but there was a lot about this culture I’ve always been interested in, especially its throat singing and the shamanism of the north of the country. Both (throat singing and shamanism) are very much the source of performing arts as a biological body in performance

The highlight of that trip was a shamanistic ritual on frozen Khövsgöl Lake. You can read about my whole experience in the post I dedicated to it. (link)

In Ulaanbaatar I went to listen to throat singing at a very tourist-oriented performance. Nevertheless, the technique was there and it was spectacular. I was also lucky that, during a camel festival in the south, in the village of Bulgam Sum, in the Gobi desert, I got to listen to some villagers singing some improvised traditional chants in an ankle bones match. You can listen to part of the chanting by following this link: https://soundcloud.com/gustavo-thomas-teatro/canto-y-juego-gobi-mongolia-2019

April

While I was preparing two Butoh pieces and one photography exhibition for June, I went to see one of China’s iconic natural marvels, staying at Jima village, near the city of Yangshuo in the the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. There I did two interesting improvisations with incredible natural settings as background. Sunsets those days were spectacular, so I timed one of those improvisations to happen as the sun set. I can say it was magical, because it really was.

May

In May I devoted myself to the creative process of the performances and the photo exhibition, and also added the task of transcribing the recorded interview I did to master Yoshito Ohno and then translating it to Spanish. While doing some research on Yoshito Ohno, I found some other interviews and materials of his autobiography that helped me understand the important role this man has played in the creation and promotion of Butoh since the very beginning. I started posting some of those findings as quotations and commentaries on my own personal experience of training at his side.

June

The Mexican Consulate made good on its promise and offered me its events hall once more to show the second phase of my photo-performance project “Pride, Chinese Style”, which this time I called “Qipao, A Gender Game”. Like the year before, my collaboration took place during the LGTBQ Film Festival different consulates in Guangzhou organize. My performance and the photography exhibition were in fact the opening to one of the film screenings. This second phase gave me the opportunity to work again with Wing (Ho Hoiwing, en mandarín He Hairong, 河海荣), this time as male model wearing a qipao, stepping up from documentary photography to a stage concept: what’s the fuzz when a man wears a women’s iconic dress? The results were pretty good, I think, and the reaction of the people who attended was fantastic.

The photo-gallery shows first the photographs I showed at the exhibition, and then the photos of the performance at the consulate.

July

As you probably already know, LGTBQ public activities are prohibited in China. That’s why it was only possible to show my project “Pride Chinese Style” inside of a foreign consulate in Guangzhou. I was advised that it was possible to present my exhibition and performance outside the consulates if I announce it as a private event without an open public publicity or ticket sale. So, I did it. This second presentation of Qipao, A Gender Game was at Jueyuan 1985, a beautiful 1920s brick house in the historical neighborhood of Dongshankou. The performance was a little different from the first show at the Mexican Consulate, Wing and Atta (my model and the one of the dancer directors of the Tango house) participated mixing their Tango with my Butoh. I was lucky that a good photographer was there to take these beautiful documents of that night.

August

Invited by Jasmine, an enthusiastic Chinese woman who owns a few independent venues in Guangzhou, to do a performance at her Café Theatre “Zhile” (知乐), I started my new project (at that moment, I was envisioning one called “Study of the Properties of Water”). I worked on my own and also had some meetings with Michael Garza, a friend and United States bassoonist who plays for the Guangzhou Symphonic Orchestra. I had to put a brief pause on that work to make a trip to the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, to an area close to the borders with Pakistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, and home to one of the most culturally vigorous – yet politically conflicted – Muslim minorities in China, the Uyghurs. The region is known also for its amazing natural beauties. On my way from Tashkorgan to Kashgar, near the lake Bulungkul, I did a short improvised performance with a background of amazing icy blue waters and enormous white sand dunes and snow-capped mountains.

August/September

Michael Garza and me decided to apply ourselves to the creative process during all of September and up to our presentation, after the National Day holidays. I decided to fuse together two projects, “Study of the Properties of Water” and “The Passing of Time”, and this was the long final name of the work. Michael worked on 10 very powerful pieces for bassoon, some classics, some by contemporary Asian composers, while I worked on my inner story with inspiration coming from paintings of different states of water by Chinese Sung dynasty painter Ma Yuan and the idea/impulse of time passing inside my body.

Here you have some documents about that intense creative process.

October

“Study of the Properties of Water and the Passing of Time” was performed at Zhile Art Space in Ersha Island, Guangzhou. Our 50 minute-long bassoon and Butoh performance was done before a full house and with what I can say great success. The attention and response of the public was deep and emotional, and the Q&A session afterwards passionate. I totally loved the experience.

The photographs were taken by several of the spectators present.

November

At long last! “Languid Bodies”, my Butoh and Video piece created in Mexico City in 2014 together with video artist Omar Ramírez. With one failed attempt in 2018 (when the show was cancelled by the police an hour before the performance due to a misperception of its content), in November 2019 I presented it at the Mexican Consulate as part of the commemoration of the International Day for the Elimination Violence against Women. Undoubtedly, no context would have been more ideal for this kind of piece.

The events hall of the Mexican Consulate is not a theatre in a proper sense, but I managed to transform it into a very basic stage, with some unavoidable visibility problems. The public was a mix of foreigners and Chinese. It made me happy that the video created by Omar, even though projected in a small format, made a very strong impression in the public and was well appreciated and even put at the same level of relevance as the Butoh piece itself. I’m personally very fond of this work and I felt more than blessed by the response to it here in China.

December

After an invitation by Jasmine, the manager at Zhile Art Space, to participate at the Guangzhou Outdoor Arts Festival (lucky me!), I created “Masks”, a 50-minute Butoh and physical theatre performance. The GOA Festival 2019 attracted hundreds of spectators every day during all December, and the day of my presentation was no exception. I was afraid to face the monster, but that was no monster, it was a beautiful creature, attentive and open to be touched.

The night after the performance I wrote:

Deeply satisfied with Masks’ presentation yesterday night at the GOA festival in Guangzhou. A very special outdoor setting, I would say spectacular. A huge audience (something like 400 people), attentive and with great response to my work. It was broadcast online throughout China on two different channels and, from what I know about just one of those channels, more than 4000 people were watching the performance.

 Also, there was even a Korean artist among the public that drew what she saw during the performance.

I’m so grateful to Jasmine, my favourite Chinese producer, and to AG, the director of the GOA Festival, who believed in my work. I feel I’m a very lucky person.

And the festival article reviewing the performance was very kind to me:

“来自墨西哥,目前驻地在广州的舞踏艺术家 Gustavo Thomas(古斯塔沃·托马斯)此次上演的舞踏作品《面具》,是他专门为 GOA 创作的全新作品。艺术家神秘而具有浓厚跨文化色彩的演出令在场市民目不转睛,从孩童到大人,皆为他的作品献上了热烈掌声。”

Mexican Butoh artist Gustavo Thomas, who currently resides in Guangzhou, presented the piece “Masks”, created by him specifically for GOA. The artist’s mysterious and strong cross-cultural performance firmly held the attention of those present, from children to adults. His piece received enthusiastic applause.

The year ahead is – as is usual in my life – unpredictable, but I’m feeling that I’m learning (and starting to use what I’ve learned) to work in a very unpredictable surrounding. I have at least three projects in the making and some collaborations with other artists.

We’ll see what happens…

Qipao, A Gender Game (A Photoperformance in Guangzhou, China)

It’s been a year since I presented the first phase of my photoperformance project “Pride Chinese Style” and it came the opportunity to show the advances of the second phase, exactly during the same event I did last year, the LGTBQ festival around the consulates in Guangzhou. As you may know, there is no way to have any event directed to the LGTBQ community in Guangzhou because is considered illegal by the Chinese government, so the only way the LGTBQ community has found is through the foreign representations in the city, including, proudly, the Mexican Consulate which has been very supportive in all events around gender equality.

This time I’ve been working around a quintessentially Chinese dress, Qipao or Cheongsam (as it is called in Cantonese), which has become a symbol of femininity in China and beyond, and then I play a simple gender twist: it is not a woman but a man who’s wearing the qipao, not as a drag but mostly as a man using proudly a dress directed to dress only women.

This phase of the project is not a documental idea of the queer community in Guangzhou, as I intended in the first one, but more into an staging, a creative game with a very simple subject. You’ll be the judge, but more than that I hope you experience this as public, putting in mind the social moment China is living right now.

“Qipao, A Gender Game” is structured in two parts: the photo exhibition and the Butoh and dance performance, but little by little I’ve been mixing both, be during the photoshoots or even during the presentations.

The first show of this second phase will be at the Mexican Consulate in Guangzhou next June 12th, 2019, ti will be there during all the month and later will move to another venue to confirm yet.

Here you hace some of the documents around. Of course you can find much more on the Website of the project: Pride Chinese Style

About the Butoh work…

(All photographs by Gustavo Thomas and Xu Shenghua)

Butoh improvisation at Sinheungsa Temple (South Korea)

In october 2018 I stayed at the Buddhist temple of Sinheungsa inside Seoraksan National Park in the northeast of South Korea. The impotence coming from my censored performance of Languid Bodies in Guangzhou had been too much for me. I needed fresh air, nature, freedom, calm and meditation, and Sinheungsa gave me all of that.

At dawn that day we went for a meditation and chants session (as the Buddhist monk do every day); after that I decided to offer my Butoh moving with the flow of that day.

Here you have the video of that improvised performance.

The person becoming a body (Kudo Taketeru improvised performance during a concrete music concert)

When I wrote my email to reserve my place for this event I received a reply saying that this was not going to be a proper performance, but only “a gig”. Then at his worksop Kudo told me that it was going to be something simple, just a 15 minute improvisation. 

As I’d never seen him performing live before I didn’t care, I’d already made my mind to assist, and also because I know when a butohka says that it’s going to be a short improvisation it’s always a false statement, it never happens that way.

This was an improvised performance with two musicians playing what I call concrete music (but it could be only contemporary music; sorry for my ignorance), with chords and percussions, and Kudo Taketeru as a dancer.

At the beginning I felt that Kudo was listening and reacting to the sounds, looking for a way to follow the difficult noise; he was acting in some way, so I was watching a person on stage, not even a transformed actor. 

When he was a person little happened to me, even I had the impression that he was trying to be humorous unsuccessfully, curiously avoiding theatrically. Then after some 15 minutes (maybe more) of heating actions and repetitions he took off his clothes. It is when everything changed in front of us.

We saw a naked body now (just wearing a tiny thong), no more a person; he was a body, only a body. I don’t remember have seen that transformation since Ko Murobushi performances in the 1990s, with the difference that Ko was less theatrical, more primitive probably.

The moment we saw Kudo’s body naked he became movement, impulsive physical -improvised- actions; jumpings, falls, tremors, knocks on the walls, lashes on the walls, hits on the wall, we forgot the person to put all our attention in the moving body. Sometimes in the heat of the improvisation of that body the actor appeared again but this time using his masterful theatrical skills (if I can make it like that) becoming for instants a demon, an animal, a monster, a theatrical physical image, then erased the actor to be again only that body in those impulsive actions.

Kudo’s body is a spectacle when moving on stage too, because of how he moves, yes, but mostly for how it looks: big and heavy bonnes and developed muscles with almost no fat, skin with no hair, strong legs, strong gluteals, thin but muscular torso, long black hair, a big mouth, big hands (with long fingers), strong feet, so particular eyes that seems to have strabismus. He was sweating profusely and used that sweat on his improvisation like an expansion of his body, like a costume.

The music, as I said before, was difficult, improvised and interesting but complex, free but with some monotony coming directly from its style; never a melody, never sentimental feeling; there was no melodrama here, no sentimentalism, no way for a deep musical introspection, only flux of sound, running energy, noisy jumps and stops with a half of second of silence and then noise again. Kudo worked all the time listening to the music, with fluidity too, but sometimes with only external pace of movement. In one moment I felt the music started to follow him.

He was the king on that stage by that time.

There were climax, two or three perhaps. I remember one especially powerful because Kudo didn’t let it go away. That’s when the body he had become transformed itself in a demon, not a ghost because never was airy, it was a body becoming a demon of flesh. 

Yes, we had to wait for this moment for quite a long in terms of performance time, watching the person, the actor going in many ways, trying many forms, but it was worth the wait. 

(Atelier Dai Q Geijutsu, Tokyo. Thursday February 14th, 2019)

“Ginbasha” and “Neiro Superlight” by Mutsumi and Neiro (My impressions of the performance)

I went to see “Dance in February” by Mutsumi & Neiro, two dear colleagues I met at Kazuo Ohno Dance Studio almost six years ago during my second travel to study Butoh in Japan. 

The work is simple in its structure, two choreographies (if we want to call them like that) or solo parts, “Ginbasha” and “Neiro Superlight” linked by only one powerful thing, the humanity of the characters/performers. I chose the word ‘humanity’ because most Butoh techniques today try precisely to erase the humanity of the body looking for a primitive nature of it or as many say “killing it”.

This was also not an improvised work but most of it was as fresh as it was improvised, alive as it was the first time they were doing those movements on the stage. But freshness, even as a possible quality of the work, was not the essential thing here. What it was striking for me, touching in many senses, was that they were two worlds doing things, yes, two worlds walking, cleaning, seating, jumping, dancing, watching; two profound microcosmos living on stage, moving their bodies like simple people but in such complexity that only they as performers could do it. And if that was remarkable they didn’t look like they were dancing.

He, dressed with a shirt with no sleeves, white underwear and a clownesque tocado on the head; his skin painted in white and his face lightly remind us a circus performer. She, dressed with many layers of clothes, a wig and a delicate hat with almost no make up, ending with only one brilliant blue leotard.

It was obvious that this was not a normal choreography of Butoh or even a theatrical story, but a piece of two characters. Yes, the presence of the performers was as profound as if they were two well constructed characters. So, in one moment I thought, -this is absurd, there are doing almost nothing but showing us what they are, this is like Theatre of the Absurd. What I’m watching is like a piece written by Beckett with Beckettian characters, with all the absurdity that means watching two human beings alive completely elaborated by the passing of time and the weight of the world over them-.

Watching Neiro and Mutsumi performing their Butoh was watching the masks, the alive costumes of two human beings, who are not capable of changing anything but just living those layers of life. It was sweet, painful, deep, absurd again, and touching but never moved us to tears. Each one of them had soul on stage and that soul moved us around their deep works. 

Here we don’t see any kind of parafernalia of the body, anything but sutil transformation, like -comparisons aside- Kazuo Ohno performing his mother or La Argentina. If there were skills showing in this “technique” that Mutsumi and Neiro used it those were from inner nature, from the soul; they were acrobats of the soul.

I’m happy to have seen this particular Butoh performance, because they are a good reason to understand that the other path in Butoh is alive, that path coming from Kazuo Ohno’s work and that it is full of humanity and artistic endeavour.

Uri Omoni ‘My mother’ (My impressions)


At the beginning it is strange to watch, it is difficult, it is not easy to get the code of the movement. I realised that I had no instruments to critize the dance I was watching.
I was only a witness of the difficulty a handicapped body had to move on that stage. Between being sleepy and being looking for a sense I started noticing details of that movement, of that new offer to my virgin eyes: her legs completely relaxed but with her feet alive; one hand more expressive than the other but with fingers that could twist like Balinese dancer; those deep black eyes; the impossible shape of the back.

My mind was twisted too, anxious, waiting perhaps for that body to become ‘normal’, agile, skilled and then I could use my educated filters and known artistic parameters to enjoy it.

I had to let it go, waiting for something to happen was not going to be the way.

When that body spoke, when that body was carried out to and in to the stage by black shadows (like in traditional Noh theatre or Bunraku), it changed clothes, played drums, then I saw that the ill body had become the body of a hero, the body of a mythological Titan. Yes, the presence I was watching moving on that stage became immense, and me, I was only a humble and weak ‘normal’ body witnessing the prowess of the unique, because I knew I will never move in that way, I will never dance like that body, because I’m simply incapable of doing it. I don’t have the divine conditions that body has.

The last choreography was she dressed as a beautiful lady, a Madonna perhaps, with an enormous paper flower as a tocado on the hair dancing a painful Aria like she was singing it.
I only let my tears drop on that espace, and I was grateful for being there.

This was a dance performance linked to the handicapped body performed by a handicapped dancer. A dance influenced by Butoh no doubt, but probably -if we understand some of the original Tatsumi Hijikata’s words- a dance that is one of the sources of our dear Butoh.

(The Suzunari Theatre, Tokyo, Japan. Saturday February 9th, 2019)

The Year I’ve Left Behind…

 

2018 was the year of a new China in my life. I came to live in China again, this time in Guangzhou. Surprisingly I found a very well developed and livable city, until the moment I wanted to create something. Living in an authoritarian society is not easy and I had a taste of it. Even though many things happened, I’m still here. So, I’ve done a short visual retrospective around my creative life in the year I’ve left behind:

 

– In March I did my first Butoh work in Guangzhou at a highway underpass in Ersha Island.