NEWS FROM FUKUSHIMA: Meditation on an Under-Reported Catastrophe by a Poet

NEWS FROM FUKUSHIMA: Meditation on an Under-Reported Catastrophe by a Poet

Meditation on an Under-Reported Catastrophe by a Poet

Written by Yuri Kageyama | Directed by Carla Blank
Z Space 450 Florida St. San Francisco CA 94110
SAT July 8, 2017 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.
SUN July 9, 2017 2 p.m.
$10 admission (free with student ID)
Discussion with audience and cast after each show.
For tickets and other information, please click on this special Z space site.

“Yuri Kageyama, with her epic poem, has earned a place among the leading world poets. This work proves that the poet as a journalist can expose conditions that are ignored by the media.” _ Ishmael Reed

“A commentary on what it means to be human in the 21st Century.” _ Basir Mchawi

“A beacon of light in a darkening world.” _ Paul Armstrong

“Tough yet faithful production and its dedication to truth-telling.” _ David Henderson

“The nuclear age of post-World War II Japan has never ended.” _ Hisami Kuroiwa

The performers in NEWS FROM FUKUSHIMA: From left to right: Shigeko Sara Suga, Monisha Shiva, Takemi Kitamura (photo by Tennessee Reed)

The performers in NEWS FROM FUKUSHIMA: From left to right: Shigeko Sara Suga, Monisha Shiva, Takemi Kitamura (photo by Tennessee Reed)

Fukushima is the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. It will take decades and billions of dollars to keep the multiple meltdowns under control. Spewed radiation has reached as far as the American West Coast. Some 100,000 people were displaced from the no-go zone. But, six years after 3.11, the story hardly makes headlines.

Journalist Yuri Kageyama turns to poetry, dance, theater, music and film, to remind us that the human stories must not be forgotten. Carla Blank, who has directed plays in Xiangtan and Ramallah, as well as collaborated with Suzushi Hanayagi and Robert Wilson, brings together a multicultural cast of artists to create provocative theater. Performing as collaborators are actors/dancers Takemi Kitamura, Monisha Shiva, Shigeko Sara Suga and musicians Stomu Takeishi, Isaku Kageyama, Kouzan Kikuchi and Joe Small. Lighting design by Blu. Documentary video of Fukushima by Yoshiaki Tago.

NEWS FROM FUKUSHIMA is a literary prayer for Japan. It explores the friendship between women, juxtaposing the intimately personal with the catastrophic. The piece, which had a debut run at La MaMa in New York in 2015, continues to develop and premieres on the West Coast at Z Space in San Francisco.

For more information, interviews and other queries:
Please click on Contact


Yuri Kageyama. Photo by Junji Kurokawa.

Yuri Kageyama. Photo by Junji Kurokawa.

YURI KAGEYAMA is an award-winning journalist, poet, songwriter, filmmaker and author of “The New and Selected Yuri” and “The Very Special Day.” Her spoken-word band the Yuricane has featured Melvin Gibbs, Eric Kamau Gravatt, Morgan Fisher, Pheeroan akLaff and Winchester Nii Tete. She is published in ”Breaking Silence,” “On a Bed of Rice,” “Pow Wow,” Cultural Weekly, Y’Bird, Konch and Public Poetry Series.


Carla Blank

Carla Blank

CARLA BLANK is a writer, editor, director, dramaturge and a teacher and performer of dance and theater for more than 50 years. She worked with Robert Wilson to create “KOOL _Dancing in My Mind,” inspired by Japanese choreographer Suzushi Hanayagi. She directed Wajahat Ali’s “The Domestic Crusaders” from a restaurant reading in Newark, California, to Off Broadway and the Kennedy Center.


TAKEMI KITAMURA, choreographer, dancer, puppeteer, Japanese sword fighter and actor, appeared in “The Oldest Boy” at Lincoln Center, “The Indian Queen” directed by Peter Sellars; “Shank’s Mare” by Tom Lee and Koryu Nishikawa V; “Demolishing Everything with Amazing Speed” by Dan Hurlin and “Memory Rings” by Phantom Limb Co. She has worked with Nami Yamamoto, Sondra Loring and Sally Silvers.

Takemi Kitamura


Monisha Shiva


MONISHA SHIVA is an actor, dancer, choreographer and painter, appearing in “The Domestic Crusaders” and “The Rats,” for theater, and independent films such as “Small Delights,” “Carroll Park,” “Echoes” and “Ukkiya Jeevan.” A native New Yorker, she has studied classical Indian dance and Bollywood, jazz and samba dancing, and acting at William Esper Studios and Studio 5.

Shigeko Suga


SHIGEKO SARA SUGA, actress, director, artistic associate at La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club, and Flamenco and Butoh dancer, has performed in 150 productions, including Pan Asian Rep.’s “Shogun Macbeth” and “No No Boy.” She dedicates her performance to her nephew Ryoei Suga, who volunteered in Kesennuma after the 2011 tsunami and now devotes his life there as a fisherman and monk.


Stomu Takeishi

STOMU TAKEISHI is a master of the fretless electric bass and has played and recorded in a variety of jazz settings with artists such as Henry Threadgill, Brandon Ross, Myra Melford, Don Cherry, Randy Brecker, Satoko Fujii, Dave Liebman, Cuong Vu, Paul Motian and Pat Metheny. He tours worldwide and performs at various international jazz festivals.

Isaku Kageyama. Photo by Koji Sasahara. ISAKU KAGEYAMA. PHOTO BY KOJI SASAHARA.

ISAKU KAGEYAMA is a taiko drummer and percussionist, working with Asano Taiko UnitOne in Los Angeles, film-scoring extravaganza “The Masterpiece Experience” and Tokyo ensemble Amanojaku. A magna cum laude Berklee College of Music graduate, he teaches at Wellesley, University of Connecticut and Brown.

Kouzan Kikuchi


KOUZAN KIKUCHI, shakuhachi player from Fukushima, studied minyo shamisen with his mother. A graduate of the Tokyo University of the Arts, he studied with National Treasure Houzan Yamamoto. He has worked with Ebizo Ichikawa, Shinobu Terajima and Motoko Ishii. In 2011, he became Tozanryu Shakuhachi Foundation “shihan” with highest honors.

JOE SMALL is a taiko artist, who is a member of Eitetsu Hayashi’s Fu-un no Kai and creator of the original concert, “Spall Fragments.” A Swarthmore graduate, he apprenticed for two years with Kodo, researched Japanese music as a Fulbright Fellow and holds an MFA in Dance from UCLA. He teaches at the Los Angeles Taiko Institute.

Joe Small


BLU lived in New York for 20 years and was resident designer at the Cubiculo and La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club. A Bessie Award winner, he was lighting designer for renowned dance theater artists such as Sally Gross, Eiko and Koma, Ping Chong, Donald Byrd, Nancy Meehan and Paula Josa Jones.




YOSHIAKI TAGO directed “A.F.O.,” “Believer,” “Worst Contact,” “Meido in Akihabara.” His short “The Song of a Tube Manufacturer” won the runner-up prize at the Yasujiro Ozu Memorial Film Festival in 2013. He serves as film adviser for Takashi Murakami. He has worked with Nobuhiko Obayashi, Takashi Miike and Macoto Tezuka. He is documenting “News from Fukushima” as a film.

Yuri Kageyama reports with a photographer in the Fukushima no-go zone. Photo by Kazuhiro Onuki.


Yuri Kageyama, with her epic poem, has earned a place among the leading world poets. This work proves that the poet as a journalist can expose conditions that are ignored by the media. _ Ishmael Reed poet, essayist, playwright, publisher, lyricist, author of MUMBO JUMBO, THE LAST DAYS OF LOUISIANA RED and THE COMPLETE MUHAMMAD ALI, MacArthur Fellowship, professor at the University of California Berkeley, San Francisco Jazz Poet Laureate (2012-2016).

NEWS FROM FUKUSHIMA is a commentary on what it means to be human in the 21st Century. While we are divided by race, ethnicity, language, geography and culture, the essence of our humanity remains constant. In NEWS FROM FUKUSHIMA, the cast, director and playwright all come together to create a montage of courage, uncertainty and hope in the face of disaster. _ Basir Mchawi producer, community organizer and radio show host at WBAI Radio in New York, who has taught at the City University of New York, public schools and independent Black schools.

A truly emotional experience. _ Liliana Perez child psychologist and Ph.D.

A vital story of our times. Spoken word and music from a talented multicultural ensemble. A beacon of light in a darkening world. _ Paul Armstrong artistic director at International Arts Initiatives, a Vancouver-based nonprofit for cultural advancement through the arts and education.

I welcomed NEWS FROM FUKUSHIMA _ into my consciousness, with deep gratitude, seeing it twice, two days in succession _ all the while marveling at the tough yet faithful production and its dedication to truth-telling. _ David Henderson poet, co-founder of Umbra and the Black Arts Movement, author of ‘SCUSE ME WHILE I KISS THE SKY. JIMI HEDNRIX: VOODOO CHILD.

Tragically, Fukushima is still constantly being shaken by earthquakes. NEWS FROM FUKUSHIMA echoes the mourning of Bon Odori dance to warn us again and again that the nuclear age of post-World War II Japan has never ended. _ Hisami Kuroiwa movie producer and executive for “The Shell Collector,” “”Lafcadio Hearn: His Journey to Ithaca,” “Sunday,” “Bent” and the Silver Bear-winning “Smoke.”

Fukushima: Excellent musical accompaniment to poignant poetry, with minimal yet imaginative staging and choreography. Musicians were absolutely superb! _ Nana pianist and New Yorker.

What a delight was the new theater piece featuring Shigeko Suga, which did a short run at La MaMa. Ms. Suga and her fellow performers glided beautifully with wit, authority and grace through the stylized performances. See this show and be transported magically. _ George Ferencz co-founder of the Impossible Ragtime Theater, resident director at La MaMa (1982-2008), who has also directed at the Actors’ Theater of Louisville, Berkeley Rep and Cleveland Playhouse.

News that enraptures and engages through Sound. A Poet sings of the unreported calamity at Fukushima in NEWS FROM FUKUSHIMA to Melvin Gibbs’ bass. _ Katsumi a Japanese living in New York.

It spoke of what’s most critically needed in this age. Despite advances in civilization and culture, the power of emotions has weakened, and people don’t know how to talk to each other. Everyone who took part in this performance, and those who came to see it, although of different races and thinking, all felt clearly the existence of what we know is so important, what we feel is so needed: Love. Love is not an abstract concept. It is about how we treasure our family, how we treat our lovers, our friends. I have lived to see many people who hurt others out of selfishness, betrayed others without qualms, and then went on to hide what they had done. But in the end, what is desired is not achieved, leaving only hunger, and, because of that, the cycle gets repeated again. What I saw here is not just cultural collaboration but what is at the center of that _ a warm feeling, and the expression of the message that the world cannot go on this way. I pray more people will be able to feel love through seeing this performance. I pray as someone who believes in love. _ Toshinori “Toshichael Jackson” Tani dancer, member of TL Brothers and instructor.

An excerpt from NEWS FROM FUKUSHIMA: “Hiroshima.” Filmed and edited by Yuri Kageyama.

Monisha Shiva. Photo by Tennessee Reed.

Monisha Shiva. Photo by Tennessee Reed.

A legacy of a woman unafraid to mix Japanese tradition and American modern dance

Choreographer, writer, editor, dramaturge, director and my friend Carla Blank has just written this obituary in Dance Magazine.
But it came two years late as her longtime collaborator’s death had been kept secret by her family.
Japanese dancer and choreographer Suzushi Hanayagi is the heroine of Robert Wilson’s homage performance piece, “KOOL: Dancing in My Mind,” which debuted in 2009 at the Guggenheim Museum in New York.
Hanayagi collaborated with Wilson for his major works from the 1980s through 1999, helping define the stark movement vocabulary that became trademark Wilson.
Suzushi was trained in the Hanayagi and Inoue dance schools, but also studied under Takehara Han.
Mixing schools was unknown and abhorred in Japanese tradition.
But Hanayagi was already a modern dancer as well and knew what she wanted.
She went to New York, at the invitation of Martha Graham, and started performing her own works, including at the Judson Dance Theater, in experimental collaborations with Blank.
Their creation made for a stunningly unique statement, rooted in classical Kabuki dance that is abstracted and linked in approach, form and idea to American modern dance _ in the same way other forms of the Japanese art, craftsmanship and design, exemplified in pottery, woodblock prints, Noh music and rock gardens, have a definitive conceptual affinity to modern art.
Some of Blank and Hanayagi’s works _ as playful as they were at times political, but always unafraid, everyday yet unabashedly personal _ were recreated in “KOOL,” along with photos and video of Hanayagi, in past works and in recent years, ill with Alzheimer’s in an Osaka instition.
The most tragic thing about Suzushi’s remarkable life is that she is all but forgotten as a pioneer artist in her home country, especially when women of her generation are finally starting to win the recognition and respect they so deserve as inspiring role models for this nation’s still under-utilized but multi-talented women.
Now, Japan will have an opporutnity to learn more about Suzushi Hanayagi and her artistic vision in a documentary film, directed by Richard Rutkowski and produced by Hisami Kuroiwa, “The Space in Back of You,” in which Blank as well as Wilson, David Byrne and Anna Halprin also appear.
The film is being shown at Theater Image Forum in Shibuya, Tokyo, SAT Sept. 29, 2012, 9 p.m. and SAT Oct. 9, 2012, 9 p.m. as part of the Dance Triennale Tokyo festival.

money for art

This is what I heard from a dancer.
But the biggest stars of Tokyo Butoh troupe Dairakudakan, not just the student dancers, don’t ever get paid to perform.
Instead, they must bring in money from outside jobs to a pool of funds that has been set up to support the group’s performances and other artistic activities.
So they are paying to dance _ never mind worrying about getting paid to perform.
The question has already been answered.
You dance to dance. That’s it.
The dance is separate from livelihood _ which must be dealt with outside of dance.
That’s why I think Dairakudan performers exude that absolute confidence.
They look at us with disdain because they know they are pure and we are not.

More Motherhood Notes

“Oya Baka” means “doting parent” in Japanese. Since it’s Mother’s Day today, here’s another from my column:

Black and Yellow

My 3-year-old son wants to be black. All the people he admires _ from Golden Gate Park roller skaters and football stars to break dancers, jazz musicians and even bus drivers _ often happen to be black.
“When I get older, my face is going to get black,” he says proudly.
“What color are you now?” I ask.
“Yellow,” he says in a meek, almost apologetic tone.
“Your daddy is Asian,” I suggest, though he doesn’t appear impressed. “Daddy, you and I are Asian, and we’re proud we’re Asian.” I’ve ben repeating similar propaganda since his infancy.
He looks up with an idea. “Can I pretend my face is black?”
It doesn’t take many years in American society _ 3 years and 3 months to be precise in the case of our Isaku _ to figure out racial myths, which are, in part, based on or are exaggerations of reality.
For the Asian in America, the low cultural energy and absence of positive images make it difficult, if not impossible, for a child to think that we are: cool, creative, sexy, attractive, musical, vivacious, outgoing, etc.
It’s more like we are: academic, responsible, straight, proper, quiet, modest, subdued, etc.
From the above two lists, guess which one Isaku would pick to emulate.
To give an illustration, aside form the pidgin in Hawaii, or the Cantonese-English of the recent Hong Kong immigrants, Asian Americans lack their own vernacular.
The “hip” Asians who talk “street” basically talk black English. They don’t throw in “ne?” or “honto?”
Using Japanese except for names of food (“sushi” is “in” these days) would only destroy their style. And much of Asian American art _ poetry, music, visual art _ remains imitative _ mostly of black or Latin forms, but also of white forms.
Asian Americans have yet to produce an artist on the calibre of Duke Ellington or a media figure with the impact of Prince.
My son recognizes Miles Davis tunes on the radio, strums his plastic guitar wailing “ROCK ‘n’ roooooll music, if you wanna dance with me,” and beats on his drums, claiming he’s Elvin Jones. (And all this despite the unusual fact that we do have Asian American friends who play music.)
I point out Brue Lee posters, whenever they are encountered, which isn’t that often these days. But I’m being unreasonable to expect a martial artist-actor, no matter how dramatic and handsome, to be relevant to a 3 year old. Many years lie ahead before he’ll be taken to those violent films.
With the intention of alleviating _ but perhaps ultimately intensifying _ my son’s identity crisis, I’ve been taking him to a Congolese dance class for children his age. Being of a contrary nature, anyway, he refused to participate. Then I made the worst parental mistake. I praised another student, a little girl, who was performing fantastically, and he muttered with a horrible hatred in his voice, “She’s black.”
“Don’t say anything like that,” I hissed, controlling an urge to strangle him while praying that no one else had overheard. “It doesn’t matter what you are _ black or Asian. We’re all friends.”
We had never taught him to be conscious of race that so-and-so was this race while someone else was something else.
But after the class, I had to lecture to my son, “J.J. is black, and Seiji is black, and they’re your friends. Wain is black and Dorothy is black …” I felt like an idiot. But that was the only way he’d have understood.
“But I like black, mama,” he protested, tears brimming in his eyes.
I wished that we didn’t have to live in world that divided people by the color of skin. I wished that skin color didn’t matter to Isaku, someone so young and innocent, but it did, and I was powerless to change it.

Suzushi Hanayagi

La Femme à la cafetière
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Suzushi Hanayagi in Robert Wilson’s “La Femme à la Cafetière” from 1989.
His homage KOOL with Carla Blank opens at the Guggenheim Museum later this month.

So KOOL at the Guggenheim

The first time I met Suzushi Hanayagi, she was in a wheelchair in a home for the elderly, a frail woman with gray hair, who muttered, grunted and smiled, appearing sweetly lost in her own strange world, happily munching on chocolate-covered cookies shaped like mushrooms that her grandson playfully handed her.
During the 1960s, Suzushi Hanayagi _ who looks more robust, determined and focused in the bespectacled shots I have seen of her past _ ventured alone to New York, in a rather unusual act of courage for a Japanese woman of her generation, armed with training in Hanayagi-school and other traditional dance to forge a new form of modern dance with American collaborators.
One of them was Carla Blank, whom I have known for years. When Blank was in Japan about five years ago, she went to visit Suzushi. She was worried. The changes were already starting to show in her friend.
Last year, Carla was back in Japan again, this time with Robert Wilson, to film Suzushi Hanayagi for a Guggenheim Museum performance piece.
I was there, mainly to see Carla and to meet Suzushi whom I had heard so much about.
I have to be honest: I was depressed.
If she had ever been a dynamic artist, I couldn’t see a shadow of that in the old woman sitting so innocently in the wheelchair, savoring her cookies, nodding agreement, or approval, to nothing in particular, as though she didn’t have a care in the world.
In her prime, Suzushi choreographed pieces for Wilson, performed with Carla in Judson Church and worked with Merce Cunningham, Anna Halprin and Martha Graham. Back in Japan, she performed in avant-garde spaces in Tokyo like Shibuya Jean Jean, but often did classical pieces as a top student for revered dancers like Han Takehara and Yachiyo Inoue.
Suzushi saw dance as part of everyday life, like an extension of her breathing, walking, mothering, all the things she did as a Japanese woman. I would have loved to see the performance piece she did with her toddler son. To her, the barrier that divided art and life held no meaning.
Carla says Suzushi had kept detailed journals of her dance ideas. No one can find those diaries today. So much of her legacy has been lost like wisps and whims maybe still there somewhere in Suzushi’s mind but strangers like me can no longer hope to grasp as concepts.
Carla Blank and Robert Wilson are piecing it all together in homage of this great but largely forgotten Japanese artist, tracking down dance footage, recreating her choreography, translating her words.
“KOOL _ Dancing in My Mind,” it’s called.
“She is still so full of life, isn’t she?” a solidly upbeat Wilson said after visiting Suzushi in the home.
I didn’t know what to say. I mumbled something like: “I am happy you are able to say that.”
But, of course.
Art can only be what the artist perceives and then communicates.
It’s not there until the artist perceives it for you.
And he could see it because he was there and he was part of it and he is an artist.
I have to go and see what Robert Wilson has created with Carla Blank at the Guggenheim for us to see _ a multimedia portrait of the real Suzushi Hanayagi and her Dance.
The piece is not just a documentation of this woman and her work.
It is about what binds people together over time, cultures, fading memories, sickness and aging.
It is about how an artist must see beyond what’s there.
It is about how life, artistic productivity and our time with those we love must end _ and about how they never really end.

Dance by DAIRAKUDAKAN’s Akaji Maro

Maro in “Symphony M.” Photo by Nobuyoshi Araki.

The four suit-clad cynical undertakers perpetually wait for death with their scrutinizing flashlights.
The followers, their naked bodies painted in white, twisted red cords of umbilical cords dangling from their heads, crack their whips in merciless sadism.
And the troupe’s leader Maro Akaji _ the corpse, the mother, the imbecile _
softly fluttering his sinewy arms in the dark silence like a deformed but beautiful swan, confronts his own death and the legacy of Butoh in his “Symphony M.”
The work, his first piece centered around his solos in seven years, had a four-day run this month at Setagaya Public Theater in Tokyo.)
DAIRAKUDAKAN pieces are often filled with kitsch references to pop culture and everyday life.
The latest work is more stark, almost devoid of the usual musical score.
Stomps, the hiss of falling sand and the breaths of the dancers are what we hear.
At the opening, a rope that looks like a chain of fossilized bones and a mirror are the only props.
Often, Maro, 65, leaves much of the dancing to the younger members, and makes his appearance to mainly deliver his presence _ his energy and his message.
In this piece, he dances.
And what a dance it is _ in one moment, writhing on the floor in a painful muscular tension that defies disease and death a la Hijikata, in another, sputtering nonsensical lines as he shuffles from one dancer to another examining their poses in befuddlement.
Ultimately, the piece is all about the relationship of the artist with the future _ Maro’s complex but totally honest relationship with his dancers _ not just the dancers who accompanied him on that stage but also all the dancers and non-dancers everywhere.
It is a testament to that relationship _ and his success as troupe leader, master and teacher _ to witness how his 14 male back-up dancers are all very strong and in superb form.
They deliver so completely Maro’s choreography in both technique and spirit.
In one scene, Maro acts as a commander for his dancers, soldiers standing at attention in line.
When he shouts his final order, the dancers crumble in unison, trembling and mumbling at once, transformed into the trademark Butoh style.
It is a perfect moment _ an expression of defiance and integrity in choreographed stupor.
In the closing sequence, Maro dies, his arms outstretched like Christ, at the center of a white cube of nothingness and the eternal universe.
The dancers arduously roll that box around on the stage like the mission they are inheriting from their teacher.
But as Maro dies, he also gives birth, his face contorted in a muted scream, his legs open to the audience and to the world.
And he gives us himself, a Buoth legend.

Poetry and Dance

I had the pleasure of collaborating with American/Brazilian dancer Abel Coelho July 6, at What the Dickens.
This blog was how we met.
I wrote about a Dairakudakan Butoh workshop, which Abel took part in.
He left a nice comment about the entry.
And our correspondence began.
He is in Japan again this summer.
We met at Ebisu station near the statute of the god.
We walked over to What the Dickens, then did this together.
Pretty good for two people who just met.
The MC who introduces us at the beginning of the video is poet Tomas.

The Naked Summer

A movie about a summer dance workshop led by Dairakudakan.

Metamorphosis is probably the most exciting event to witness, and that’s exactly what happens in “The Naked Summer,” a film that documents what happens to about 30 youngsters who take a Butoh dance workshop led by Akaji Maro of Dairakudakan in Hakuba, Nagano Prefecture, in 2003.
They jog, cook meals, giggle.
But something extraordinary is about to happen.
Exercises in Butoh are designed to teach the novice the methodology of the dance by confronting those Butoh moments of existence.
Tatsumi Hijikata, the founder of Butoh, is supposed to have said that Butoh is the dance of a corpse.
Students of Butoh were told, as the legend goes, to become a horse, or become a dog, or feel as though their body were covered with ants, and question why your head should be on top of your neck, to achieve the slow, tense and jagged movements that characterize Butoh _ the self-proclaimed antithesis to Western dance.
Watching the youngsters tackle the assignments is fascinating:
_ Feel the space around your body, touching every fingertip, air moving like gel.
_ Sense a tragic accidental moment, even something minor striking, like a splinter piercing your foot.
_ Run and keep laughing.
_ Walk slowly, sliding your feet across the ground, while keeping your head level.
They practice and practice with a passion that’s laughable in its purity. They grimace, stretching and squeezing their facial muscles. They squirm on the floor like worms. They flap their arms, bend their bodies repeatedly, they do lifts until their backs hurt. They collapse on the floor in exhaustion.
But in the act of doing, zenlike, they become Butoh dancers.
The weeklong workshop culminates in an evening performance at an outdoor theater.
When the boys get their heads and eyebrows shaved off, the transformation is almost complete.
The youngsters cut cloth, using patterns, and sew bikini panties _ the sole items of costuming.
By the time they nervously don makeup, painting their bodies with gold paint, they are already strangers, animals from hell trapped in sinewy bodies of Buddhas.
The movie juxtaposes footage of the professional troupe’s performances with scenes from the workshop.
And that’s an eye-opener.
Having watched the novices struggle akwwardly with the simplest Butoh moves that we have seen so often performed effortlessly by the professionals, we now appreciate with more intensity the experienced dancers’ chiseled bodies and controlled movements.
Maro’s body at 60 has never been so stunningly beautiful as we watch him smile, crack jokes, lecture and gaze on with wisdom at those who are trying to take up this legacy of Japanese postwar art.
We know he knows he is running out of time to leave that understanding to the young, and we witness Maro’s recognition of his inevitable death and his sense of urgency.
We are also struck by how unique, definitive and awesome Butoh is as an art form and how it is relevant to the world today and the future these youngsters inherit.
Still, the movie, directed by Kenji Okabe, intentionally doesn’t bother to give the participants’ names, backgrounds.
They are blurs of faces.
They came and they lived a week as Butoh dancers and they will never be the same.
That’s the story this movie wants to tell.
A regular documentary might have gone back, asking some of them for a reaction, demonstrating their return to the everyday.
Instead, the movie simply shows another summer has come _ jogging and exercising under the sunlight is another batch of kids who has come to be reborn as Butoh dancers.

OKINAWA FIGHTERS head to dance competition

Roppongi warehouse-style techno disco Yellow is a eardrum-blasting brain-numbing thump-thumping of trance escapism on the main dance floor Friday night in Tokyo.
But the real action and real soul are tucked away in a corner room.
It’s for sitting around and sipping on drinks in between the dosages of trance.
The sound is more funk/R&B. And that’s all it takes to get these talented young dancers showing us all what real dance IS:
demonstrate without a doubt the reason Dance is art in movement and feeling as human interaction.
We find out they are in town to take part as the Okinawa Fighters in a rather serious dance competition Sunday at Shinkiba’s Studio Coast, Free Style Japan 2007.
I was (innocently) applauding two fantastic dancers who were, as I find out later, practicing, doing an enticingly fun-to-watch mock battle, contesting their hiphop/break-dancing/robot moves.
They suddenly invite me to the dance floor, motioning with their arms, spread wide/open in friendship, showing me moves, comically banging away at my hips, shaking their torsos, swaying their pelvis, cheering/laughing/clapping, making me feel as though I’m a pretty good dancer myself.
The boys are not touchy-feely with just the women but with each other in clean camaraderie that is breath-taking.
Let’s face it: It’s more fun to dance with a guy who knows what he is doing.
What I got was maybe seven of them _ all good enough to go to a dance competition _ pretty cool!
One says in Japanese “This is the Okinawan style.”
There is so much diversity on the island everyone makes a point of being warm, he says.
Dance the way they execute it _ playful, sincere and erotic in the best sense of the word _ is the epitome of that spirit.