Sunday, July 5, 2015

Wreck Beach Butoh: First Performance

Waking up yesterday I discovered I still had white paint from our undress rehearsal on various parts of my body: between my toes; on the inside of my arm; between my shoulder blades. I took that as a good sign.

And, indeed, yesterday's performance was very successful, notwithstanding some last minute changes. Barbara reset the opening so that we descend to the water's edge in our statue group formations, staring out at the sea until she gives the signal to turn to face the cliffs/audience. It does make for a more coherent opening, especially given the fact that the audience had already clustered around us when we were still in our warm-up circle following Jay through various breathing and stretching exercises. I think many just assumed that given we were moving together as an ensemble that the performance must have started; needless to say, it was a bit disconcerting during the knee bends and stretches to note, when one put one's head between one's legs, that among the first glimpses the audience was getting was a full-on shot of one's ass.

A half-hour before the start of the performance, while we were putting on our make-up, it seemed to me that there weren't all that many people on the beach. However, during the warm-up I was surprised at the crowd that suddenly swelled around us: they seemed to come from out of nowhere, in various states of dress and undress. Once the performance began I was conscious of the audience only as an assembled mass; granted I didn't have my glasses on and so couldn't distinguish individual features very well (sorry Tiffany and Bertrand!). Still I think it had less to do with the relative proximity or distance of the spectators (some of whom got very close to us) than with the fact that I had actually found that butoh space-time nexus where body and environment and event became as one--to the point where, at the end of "Crumbling," emerging out of one move in which I couldn't see the rest of my group, I realized I was rather too much in the ma-zone of my own pace.

Not that, amid all of this, there weren't the occasional quotidian jolts of reality that brought me back to the piece's practical mechanics--and the spontaneous adjustment of them: as when, for example, amid Barbara's barking under her breath at us to get tighter as a group in advance of "Seagulls," Jay decided to launch our squawking count with the cry for nothing that is usually given by Barbara. If looks could kill ... but what could we do but all eventually join in? Then, too, the "Pirates" bit that follows this sequence was altogether different when, upon approaching my first audience member, I suddenly had an out-of-body "emperor's new clothes" moment, realizing that this person before whom I'm about to thrust forward my pelvis, throw back my head and laugh, knows that I'm naked, but is just going to ignore that detail for now.

The same went for the various friends in the audience I spoke to after the show, including several LGC and Mountain View Solstice alums. Given our casual banter about the performance, you'd have thought I'd just stepped off a concert stage fully clothed rather than out of the sea naked and painted white. But then that's the magic of Wreck Beach Butoh. There is something about the sublimity of the natural setting, which requires as much work (and, arguably, submission) from the audience as it does from us as performers, that makes physiognomical self-consciousness superfluous. Really, as a species we are all so puny amidst this vastness. What else is there to do, then, but dance?


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