Photos by Clif Page

Birdsound and Butoh Dance
featuring Taketeru Kudo and Michael Pestel

with Kudo and Pestel
At the Mattress Factory
Saturday, July 9th, 2011 • Sunrise 6 a.m.
Free Admission

with Taketeru Kudo, Michael Pestel, Caterina
De Re, Ben Opie, McLean Denny & Friends
At the Mattress Factory
Saturday, July 9th, 2011 • 2 p.m.
Free with Mattress Factory Admission

Featuring: Taketeru Kudo, Caterina De Re,
Ben Opie, tENT, a.c., Jim Storch, Michael Pestel, and friends
At the Mattress Factory
Friday, July 15th, 2011 • Sunset 8 p.m.
Free (MF Members have priority. Space is limited.)

Butoh and Birds

Butoh is a modern Japanese dance-and-movement form. Taketeru Kudo, currently in residence at the Mattress Factory is one of the most acclaimed performers of the new generation of butoh. His movements are unusually fluid and frequently compared to those of a bird, something uncommon in the nether world of butoh kinesthetics. We are here, along with several others, to explore the world of birds in sound and movement and to communicate with them. Workshops for children and adults are ongoing from June 20-July 8 from 1-3:00 p.m.. Performances take place weekly through July 15th. Please see Mattress Factory and Aviary websites for details.

Performing with Kudo - an avian ghost - is not easy. It requires fierce concentration at the razor edge of emotions and a whimsical sense of humor. This is butoh the way we approach it: Kudosan in avian motion and the musicians in birdsong and squawk. Nothing is choreographed or planned except for the meticulous absence of planning. Just like the birds.

Decisions for movement and sound emerge from raw feeling – gut-wrenching, lice-scratching, satyr-prancing revelations cut as if through onion strata into circling layers of tears, laughter and stillness. Just like the solitary kookaburra at the National Aviary crying and laughing inside its cage, our cycles of emotion start and stop ceaselessly. Or like the flamingos in the Wetlands Exhibit honking back and forth, back and forth, then suddenly spreading wings, preening, walking silently, elegantly, honking some more, we too follow our impulses uncensored.

Unlike ballet or the kind of modern dance that seeks to defy gravity, Kudo's attempts at flying are quickly aborted and stumble clip-winged to the ground. He then resumes immediately his flights of fancy, trying again and again to lift off of human ground. Everything collapses and rises in an exquisitely ordered sense of the unpredictable only to finally expire, escape or fade out in an incremental, even excremental, decrescendo of exhaustion.

We are told that such extreme dialectics emerged out of Japan’s postwar crisis - from Truman’s bombs - and that butoh was formed directly from the ashes of the Emperor’s undecipherable surrender. Since capitalism has merely redirected Japanese military discipline, as well as a horrific sense of loss, into the vicious cycle of consumer production and consumption, the crisis which butoh confronted sixty years ago remains more or less the same today – or perhaps more stuck in the Japanese craw, indeed the global craw, than ever.

Now bombs have become leaking nuclear plants. And by the end of this century, many hundreds of bird species around the world will join the swelling list of extinctions caused by us humans. The National Aviary's conservation efforts will go into overdrive. We are all in this together.

One could say that the butoh musicians’ approach to sound is similar to Kudo’s approach to movement. There is the emotional dialog and the sudden bursts of arhythmical playing mixed with steady syncopation. In terms of bird sound, the sweet dulcet song of our “yellow warblers” might turn suddenly into a flock of “snarling pterodactyls” – if indeed they snarled – and then return, just as quickly, to the joyous task of warbling. Rather than merely supporting or chaperoning the other, however, Kudo and the musicians prod and poke each other beyond superficial points of synchrony into more complex states of cacophony, chaos and unity.

Just like the birds.

-Michael Pestel, June 2011
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