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Honouring a dance that goes against tradition

Next week the ARTos Foundation in Nicosia will dedicate two nights to presenting a tribute to the internationally renowned Japanese Butoh dancer Masaki Iwana – who will perform his work for the first time in Cyprus.

The two-day tribute will begin on Wednesday with a screening of Iwana’s first feature film, with him in the seat of director and writer, entitled Vermilion Souls at 8pm. The film is set in Tokyo seven years after the end of WWII and its cast includes some renowned butoh dancers with distinctive styles from both Japan and Europe.

It is a surreal story which revolves around the dreams and realities of a young boy who strays into a strange mansion while out chasing fliers dropped by a small aeroplane.

Inside the mansion he finds four confined adults who are suffering from an incurable disease which prevents them from having exposure to the sun. The four have been anxious to die, waiting for the day when the government orders their “gas release”.

On the day that the boy wandered into the mansion, one of the four – Kakera – killed herself and her body was dumped in a tunnel. On the day after the boy’s encounter with these death-wishers, the gas release order is finally issued. Their rejoicing is short-lived, however, as the order is conditional on the presence of five living persons being confirmed before gas is released. So, the three now go looking for Kakera’s body in order to meet the precondition for the gassing. To be able to die, the four begin a final, life-filled stretch of their lives.

Vermilion Souls is a film about the underlying concept of butoh since its inception 50 years ago. Through this drama Iwana shows that life becomes true only when one is conscious of death.

Butoh first appeared in post-war Japan in 1959 strongly influenced by the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It was born as a rebellion against Western and Japanese traditional dance and flourished through the cooperation of its founders, Tatsumi Hijikata and Kazuo Ohno, in the Avant-garde shadow of the 1950s and 1960s.

It is a form of art that is difficult to precisely define. It moves between dance and theatre and it is impossible to separate the body from the spirit when referring to Butoh. The technique is inherent in this dance, but it is always secondary compared to the purity the spirit seeks.

During the screening of the 2008 film, Iwana will also be present.

On Thursday Iwana will perform the piece ‘The Lifetime of Lady Boy Ivan Ilyrich’. The performance deals with those who are discriminated against as a sexual minority and those who have arrogance and honour because of beauty. By getting older, the body is gradually rotting, declines, gets ugly and finally rusts.

Iwana will also be teaching a workshop on June 10-15 in Platres. The workshop is suitable for performers, dancers, actors, artists, architects, researchers and other professional artists interested in being trained in contemporary Japanese Butoh and how it can be interpreted in body language by everyone personally.

It lasts four hours per day and includes 90 minutes of physical exercises, and two and a half hours of performance exercises. The cost for attending the workshop is €150. As the number of participants is limited, book your place by calling 99-157424 or sending a email to [email protected]

Tickets to the screening only on Wednesday are €7, tickets for the performance on Thursday are €15 and tickets for both days are €20

Tribute to the Japanese Butoh Performer Maskaki Iwana
Screening of feature film Vermillion Souls on Wednesday, and performance on Thursday. June 7-8. Wednesday: 8pm, Thursday: 9pm. ARTos Cultural and Research Foundation, Nicosia. €20/15/7. Tel: 22-445456

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