The post World War II Japanese dance theatre form, Butoh, is traditionally performed in white body make-up. Slow controlled movement, body tension and muscular involvement may rely on elaborate visualizations, a certain state of mind or feeling, visceral cues or spiritual content. Shinka, directed by Yoshiko Usami and presented by RenGyoSoh assumes the framework of Butoh and adds Western dance and mime to an evolving journey.
There is the greed of acquisition as figures with mouths widely agape sift through debris then confront one another. Unexpectedly the movement quality shifts. Sharp, quick movement replaces the slow control. Wordless sounds become audible groans, grasps and the writhing bodies begin to follow the rhythmic pulse of a music score. Dancers Jorge Luna, Miles Butler, Clara Kundin, Jennifer Marinelli, Efren Sanchez, and Yokko (Yoshiko Usami) move to the beat and the scene is swiftly current, reminiscent of a dance club rave. Male/female coupling introduces weight-sharing that eventually slips away.
City sounds, buzzing alarms announce a solitary figure in a business suit. Her bound flow continues unconditionally, while others clear away clutter. The sharp pathways of the four dancers who surround the solitary figure are pedestrian and functional, layered with spoken phrases. The journey is uninterrupted for the solo figure, however, who continues with solid determination and a steady forward gaze.
Costumes by Deepshika Chatterjee encompass tattered fabrics or a collection of trash bags, and then change to business attire, and eventually to red wide leg pants, men with chests bare. The red fabric and the sound of rainfall signal a slow melt, and then a hopeful rising up. A long dissolve concludes in a lovely sequence with performers, lying on backs, arms and legs gently treading the air.
Recognizable music used to score film frequently directs the effort of the physicality. Did I hear music from “The Hours” by Philip Glass? It is the play with the sound that seems to take over. Other vocalizations by the performers distract. Monkey-like sounds take away from bodies moving like animals. When dancers move correspondingly to a tribal beat, costume malfunctions and errors with white make up stand out.
Shinka is a journey undertaken by committed performers. It affords an altered perspective by merging several movement viewpoints, sharing in aspects of cultural traditions and striving for a message of unity. A solid belief directs the action. though greater strength could be found by letting the movement speak for itself.
Running Time: 60 minutes, with no intermission
Shinka plays through July 16, 2017 at Gallaudet University Elstad Auditorium– 800 Florida Ave NE – in Washington, D.C. For tickets, call (866) 811-4111, purchase them at the door, or purchase them online.
Check other reviews and show previews on DCMetroTheaterArts’ 2017 Capital Fringe Page.