Butoh embraces the holistic idea of human life. Having left the striking images of a naked collective body in black in his “Suddenly Everywhere Is Black with People”, the Brazilian choreographer Marcelo Evelin, together with his company Demolition Incorporada, focuses on the body’s physical decline in his new piece.
Inspired by Tatsumi Hijikata, Evelin, in this piece entitled “Dança Doente”, meaning “Sick Dance”, stages a body that is infected by the world and dominated by external forces that are wearing it out to the point of deterioration. Developing further his previous ideas of fragile bodies, Evelin here approaches dance as the material of molecular symptomatology, the pathology of a moving body, searching for a dance that is viral, contagious, post-apocalyptic: the omen of certain death is brandished to reaffirm the power of life.
Evelin asks how we can understand dance as a symptom that is a subjective description of a condition of the body itself, as opposed to a diagnosis objectively named by doctors. The state of sickness in this piece addresses the complete destabilising of the body and all the processes that keep it alive.
Hijikata was surrounded by images of disease. Not only was his dance studio, Asbestos-kan, built on the site of a leprosy hospital, but he himself also wrote and talked about, and created works based on themes of sickness and disability, such as his dance of leprosy. Hijikata’s last piece is a mystical autobiography entitled “Yameru Maihime” (1984), about an ailing female dancer, on whom Evelin leans most heavily in this piece. Instead of reading this untranslatable, complex word painting by Hijikata, Evelin during his residency in Japan has approached the personal testimonials of Japanese readers to transmit the expressions, sensations, images and gestures they found in this book.
Novelist Yukio Mishima, whose novel on male homosexuality, “Kinjiki” (Forbidden Colors), was the source of the subject matter of Hijikata’s first butoh in 1959, wrote about the pathology of a moving body being inspired by his dialogue with Hijikata: the disabled body as well as butoh movement exposes fakes in our everyday movement. Hijikata once told Mishima that he watched a patient with cerebral palsy try to grasp an object. The patient‘s hand did not move straight toward the object. Rather, through trial and error, the patient turned his arm in the opposite direction first, making a long detour and then finally grasping the object. Hijikata was surprised, because he (Hijikata) had taught his student exactly the same movement that the one the patient did.
Butoh uncovers the socially disciplined, habituated body. For Hijikata, the aimless use of the body, which he calls dance, is against a production-oriented, capitalist society. Following Hijikata’s rebellion of the body as an ailing body in capitalist society, Evelin searches for a sick dance that occurs as a premonition of death, to reaffirm life in all its power, by killing the ideas and the references, and unmaking all the clues he already had.
Nonetheless, dance has the power of ‘contagion’: Evelin remembers seeing Pina Bausch dancing in 1980 in Rio de Janeiro, a memory that is still alive within him like a disease he caught, a virus he never shook off. Situating “Dança Doente” as a parenthesis between “Kinjiki” and “Yameru Maihime”, Hijikata’s first and last works, Evelin lets us experience the powerful contagion of dance and exposes us to the ‘viruses’ in the world, something that we can hardly forget.