The first, and really the only question that matters with any public performance is whether or not you were moved by it. Were you entertained? Enlightened? Elevated? Enraged? Amused? Did you learn something? Did something happen within you? With Kota Yamazaki’s Darkness Odyssey Part 2: I or Hallucination, the answer is yes, I was moved by it. I lack the training and expertise to comment authoritatively on Japanese Butoh and its offshoots but I certainly know what makes a good show. Esoteric philosophy is at the heart of this dance as evidenced by this quote from the promotional material: “Part 2: I or Hallucination is inspired by the writings of French philosopher Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, Butoh pioneer Tatsumi Hijikata’s notion of a ‘dance of darkness,’ and the customs and folklore around Japanese goze music.” Despite this and other obscure descriptions, this was a viscerally felt show. The most interesting aspect of the choreography was how it slowly revealed the inner character of the artists. This is counterintuitive because much of the movement was fairly minimalist and I would have thought that it would reveal little. They began by moving very slowly, one body part at a time. It requires deep inner stillness to look convincing doing something like that and in that aspect of the choreography it was a complete success. Perhaps the very lack of complexity left them with no place to hide their essential selves. At other times they were in continuous movement that was flowing and the character of the individuals became more nuanced but through it all, each of them managed to convey inner stillness.

Each of the five performers were doing something different at all times rendering it impossible to watch them all equally so I found it best to observe them one at a time and immerse myself in that individual for a while. Yamazaki spent the entire performance lying on his face on stage left with his feet towards the audience, just outside of the performance space which was defined by silver fabric fastened to the floor. He was in motion whenever I looked at him but it was very slow and small movements. One foot would describe a small circle in the air before coming down gently to rest on the floor again. An arm reached out and was withdrawn. Occasionally his hand would reach out and touch the performance surface. It occurred to me that he might have been dreaming the choreography as it was being performed. There were four other dancers who made up the company and each of them was so radically different from the others that they might have been chosen at random.

Joanna Kotze is a long and lean dancer. As she moved around the stage, her inner ballerina emerged. There was no mistaking her many years of ballet training as she made the most elemental movements. At times she rose to demi-pointe and the high arches of her feet set her apart from the rest of the cast. Even to the end of the show I was unable to tell whether that was by the choreographer’s design or due to the simplicity of the movement which allowed the dancer no place to hide. Raja Feather Kelly is a modern dancer who choreographs and performs with other companies and he was equally distinctive here. His arms are unusually long and he moves with rare grace. Julian Barnett is a tightly compact dancer who has a wide range of movement. He was mostly unobtrusive until late in the piece when he became increasingly wound up and finally exploded in a frenzy of psychotic rage. He sustained an incredible level of intensity before finally subsiding back into the group. Most intriguing to me was Mina Nishimura who is the choreographer’s spouse. She was trained in Butoh and also stood apart from the others. Her most interesting feature was her lack of affectation. She seemed to be taking her gestures from everyday life and investing them with child-like innocence. At one point she walked downstage and she was a five year old child, full of enthusiasm. Then she quickly changed back into an adult and seemed fragile and vulnerable. She was the most changeable of all the performers, a true cipher.

All of this is only by way of pointing out that, as it said in the press release, notwithstanding the “fragile, vaporizing body as a reflection of our ever-changing landscapes” this was an intriguing and compelling vision of four individuals guided by the idiosyncratic vision of Kota Yamazaki. I was glad that the show only lasted for sixty minutes but it was an interesting hour that left me thinking. When there are no intricate steps to master or roles to portray, what is left of a dancer’s essential self? Quite a lot. Each of these performers laid claim to an essential portion of this artistic endeavor just by being there.