Dance reveals spirit and soul

PUBLISHED : Friday, 16 August, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 16 August, 1996, 12:00am

Each person has his own definition of beauty, and butoh certainly has its own beauty It is another kind of dance. It does not have the light and elegant movements of ballet, nor does it have the classic steps of Chinese dance.

But butoh has its own distinctive style which makes it stand out and such an influence in the world of contemporary dance.

Butoh is a form of Japanese dance which expresses the realities of human nature - beauty and ugliness, life and death - through slow changes in the shapes of the dancers' bodies.

The faces and bodies of the dancers are painted in white, and there is little clothing to cover their bodies. Dirakudakan, a butoh dance company set up by Maro Akaji in 1972, will perform its latest dance opera, Book of the Dead, at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre Grand Theatre in October during the 16th Festival of Asian Arts.

The story, based on a novel with the same title by Japanese author Shinbo Origuchi, is about the tragic and eerie romance of two lovers torn apart by death.

The woman cannot accept the painful reality and continues life as if her lover is still alive, hoping to cross over the barrier between life and death and reunite with him.

The forthcoming production will mark the third time audiences in the territory are exposed to the distinctive Japanese dance style.

Two spectacular shows were staged in 1990 and 1994.

'The two previous performances were a great success. Many people from the dance field came to the show to catch a glimpse of a dance style that has strongly influenced the art of dance,' said Lo Tak-sing, senior manager of the Urban Council's Festivals Office.

'Western contemporary dance is very much affected by butoh, a dance characterised by distinct body movements and all-white make-up. It is an art which expresses the different sides of human nature.' Mr Akaji said Japanese dance used to emphasise the aesthetic side of art, and butoh has broken such traditions and limitations to present reality in a different manner.

'The world is continuously changing and the old ways of presentation may be inadequate to express the new ways of life in modern society,' he said.

'In the past, people considered kabuki as a beautiful way of dance and butoh as something ugly.

'But each person has his own definition of beauty, and butoh certainly has its own beauty.'