The Kokoro Dancers performing in Wreck Beach July 2010

Kokoro Dance
16th Annual Wreck Beach Butoh

Dates and Venue 2-3 July, 12.30pm | At the Foot of the #4 Trail below the UBC Museum of Anthropology

Reviewer Ed Farolan

Fully nude dancers clad in white makeup slowly make their way to the beach as the audience follows them. Their movements remind one of the dance steps in the Kabuki and Noh tradition. They jog towards the water to warm themselves up. It's a bit nippy this Saturday morning and finally they group together and backtrack in small steps, like a military drill, towards the water where they drop and float. They are still for a while, facing sea and sky. They slowly move out towards the sand, still in lying positon as each one then convulses, like fish out of water.

I am reminded of Darwin whose travels to Galapagos started his theory of evolution. We all come from the sea, from fish to amphibians to apes and finally, humans. As the dancers stand slowly, they fall, and stand up again, and we begin to sense the neanderthal as they do movements similar to what Darwin says are our ancestors.

The crowd (some audience members are also completely clotheless as clothing is optional in this beach) follows them as they leave the water, moving southward on the beach, slowly, deliberately, with Tai-Chi/Kung-Fu movements. The crowd surrounds them. (Meantime, ladies carrying donation boxes go around soliciting.)

Then, what makes this dance different from last year's is that each dancer separates and performs for each member of the audience. The audience is now scattered and some dancers exude violent movements as they lie down on the sand and roll like dogs, while others try to communicate anguish. A female dancer in front of an audience of three cries quietly as she takes a statue-like stance, going through angst, then later, almost religiously, dancing in the rituals of some goddess.

Thus we do see the evolution from the barbaric to the cultural where humans are now in tune with the arts and religion. Worship becomes a tenet in this stage of evolution, as man and womon now pray to their gods and dance in Dionysian fashion to celebrate the rituals of the sun, sand and sea, imitating birds now, then humans, fauna and flora mix in their movements.

The music is the sound of the waves, and after an hour, the dancers slowly return to the sea.

Wreck Beach Butoh was first launched in 1996 by Jay Hirabayashi and Barbara Bourget, founders of the veteran butoh company, Kokoro Dance. Fifteen years later, it has become the signature piece for Kokoro Dance offering audiences and participants alike a dance experience specifically created for Wreck Beach, Canada's first and largest clothing-optional beach.

© 2011 Ed Farolan