Simply walking into ButohBar 番狂わせ OUT of ORDER is an experience on its own. It feels like we have entered an underground, post-apocalyptic dive bar. Chairs are scattered around the space, various art installations are positioned on the floor or projected onto the walls and drinks and food can be ordered at the makeshift counter. There are roving performers and there are resting performers - lying on chairs, sitting at an altar and even hidden within a box. These initial encounters immediately succeed in setting the scene for the artistic collective of ButohOUT! to present, inform, inspire and enlighten its audience with what butoh is and its potential to bring change.Originating in Japan in the late 19050s / early 1960s, butoh was considered a rejection to western dance. It was - and remains - among many things, abstract, expressive and experimental. The co-creators of Butoh Bar 番狂わせ OUT of ORDER, Yumi Umiumare and Taka Takiguchi bring together an eclectic mix of artists to present an evening where anything goes and anything can happen. They have intentionally used the Japanese translation of “out of order” to be 番狂わせ ("disruption" or "upset") so they can play with the unexpectedness of the evening and the fear and excitement for what may unfold.
Traditionally, butoh is slow, contemplative, and silent, and artists often wear white paint or white clothes. But here, it is erratic, spontaneous, verbal and colourful. Jessie Ngaio covers her body in neon coloured paints while Emma Bathgate provides vocals and songs throughout the course of the evening. At one point, the entire cast take to the stage in varying yellow items of clothing, like they are some fanatical kids dance troupe as they perform an energetic routine.
The audience are encouraged to be more than passive participants. We take part in a large disorderly game of musical chairs. I observe audience members interacting with artists in different ways, some last a few seconds, some minutes. The ensemble constantly move towards establishing a gripping and unpredictable environment, where edginess and restlessness fill the room. The evening culminates in an attempted moment of transformation intended to feel natural and authentic, but results in the exact opposite. Even with the disruptive essence of the show, there needs to be a structure in place that allows the audience to bring themselves into the work and feel vulnerable and open enough to want to actively participate in the finale.
Despite this shortcoming, Butoh Bar 番狂わせ OUT of ORDER offers audiences the opportunity to see and engage with experimental and unfamiliar art. Beyond that, it also asks us to think about our responses to these works and how butoh can help as a re-birthing on how we can see the world.
Venue: Abbotsford Convent, 1 St. Helliers St., Abbotsford
Season: until 19 November | 7.30pm, Sun 5:00pm
Duration: 90 minutes
Tickets: $35 Full | $27.50 Concession
Image credit: Vikk Shayen