Students perform innovative Japanese art form in Studio 115

Jerry Gardner’s “Half Moon Rising,” an original Butoh dance and theatrical production, opens this week in the department of theater’s Studio 115.

Called a “dance of darkness,” Butoh (pronounced BOO-toe) formed in the wake of post World War II Japan and was first performed in 1959. Though a fairly recent art form, it has spread rapidly throughout the world, largely due to migrating and traveling Japanese performers. It has as many styles as there are performers to produce it.

A major staple of Butoh is its use of white body makeup (Kabuki style) but has been known to include gold, silver, red and black. The dance and/or dancers determine the amount of costumes and props in a production, and the styles vary from wild, passionate and chaotic to slow, calm and controlled.

Dancers undergo meditations and processes that aim at “unleashing buried impulses” within each performer.

“It is an offering of inner spirit,” Gardner said. “It is a dance unto itself, for it is the unique expression of the dancer unencumbered by language and tradition and constraint?the body in and of itself reveals the history of humanity.”

Andrew Abbot, one of “Half Moon’s” nine performers, described the experience as nothing he has ever been able to pursue before. It is “a process of tearing the inside out and revealing the hidden beauty, ugliness and deep impulses that may be buried inside?it’s about confronting (your) demons,” Abbot said.

The show itself is actually inspired by the practice of meditation. The play/dance is a series of images and stories that have occurred between the new moon and the half moon.

The smooth performance is meant to convey the continuity of cycles that arise in the mind of the playwright.

Abbott said that there is no story, per se, or even an agreed upon line of action that is being pushed on the audience. Instead, the show allows there to be 90 to 100 different stories created by each audience member, who takes something away with himself or herself, “whether it be good or bad,” Abbott said.

Dancers will be clad in little more than a dance belt and white briefs for the men (who had to shave their heads for the production) and a similar costume with an added top for the women (who dyed their hair black). All nine performers are covered from head to toe in white make-up and add and subtract articles of clothing and fabric throughout the show to suggest characters that arise and affect the performance’s tone.

Half Moon Rising is a perfect opportunity to see fully produced Butoh works. Some might recognize the art form from earlier this year when actors from the senior class performed it just north of the chemistry building and east of the library.

“It’s a great way to get unconventional theater to the masses,” Abbott said. “If people are open, they will be affected.”