Butoh dancers use breath and visualizations projected within and around the body to embody elemental forces and to explore pre-verbal sensations and experiences. It’s a form of dance that arose in Japan in the ferment of experimental art and postwar radicalism starting in the late 1950’s. You may find that this video tries your patience, but if you surrender to it, this kind of performance can alter your perception of time.
Emergence is an improvised performance by butoh dancers Corinna Brown and Craig Colorusso. Corinna is a long time friend with whom I have collaborated many times, and you’re sure to see more of her here. I videotaped this performance on May 31, 2003, at a performance at a Brooklyn loft party/art exhibit that was a fundraiser for oceanic ecology. The recorded music is by Diving Bell, a duo consisting of Craig Colorusso, also seen dancing here, and Joel Westerdale.
There was supposed to be a special spot light for this performance. I was to videotape, using Corinna’s old Sony Hi8 format camcorder. But as the performance began, the spot light failed to work. The space was almost completely dark. I wasn’t getting anything on tape. Thinking quickly, I switched the camera over to the NightShot mode, which records in monochrome in dark conditions, and pulled the Mini MagLite out of my back pocket. This is one of the tiny AAA battery ones, not very bright, but bright enough for NightShot and bright enough to let the audience see the performance in the dark loft. Holding the camera with the right hand and the light with the left, I used thumb and forefinger to change the focus of the light, causing a ring of brightness to expand and contract around the performers.
The look of this video is all thanks to an accident and a seat-of-the-pants solution. The eerie greenish whiteness, the looming shadows and pulsing aura, would not have been part of this video had the intended lighting not malfunctioned. And yet it’s perfect. Not only does it stylistically fit the performance in the video, I think the dim and eerie hand-held light also enhanced the live performance. The stage light would have separated the performers from the crowd and made people stand back, but the darkness drew people into it and made it more intimate.
Chaos is an artist. When she emerges to collaborate with you, do not refuse her, but welcome her and answer her openly and freely, and she will impart something better than you could have conceived.