€ 18 / € 14
Meet the artists after the performance on 6/05
What might dance mean for tired, fragile and suffering bodies? Marcelo Evelin and his company Demolition Incorporada offer raw, head-on experiences that reveal the dark side of life and break with the certainties of contemporary dance. After a career spanning more than thirty years, the Brazilian choreographer has also focused on the body’s physical decline. Dança Doente (“Sick Dance”) stages a body that is infected by the world and dominated by external forces that are wearing it out to the point of ruin. Marcelo Evelin found his inspiration in Hijikata Tatsumi, the pioneer of butoh, also known as the “dance of darkness”, created in Japan in the 1960s. Approaching dance as the material of a molecular symptomatology, the pathology of a moving body, he rendered it viral, contagious, post-apocalyptic: the omen of certain death, brandished to reaffirm the power of life. Essential viewing!
A piece by
Marcelo Evelin / Demolition Incorporada
Concept & choreography
Creation & performance
Andrez Lean Ghizze, Bruno Moreno, Carolina Mendonça, Fabien Marcil, Hitomi Nagasu, Luana Gouveia, Marcelo Evelin, Márcio Nonato, Rosângela Sulidade, Sho Takiguchi
Loes Van der Pligt
Training traditional Japanese dance
Voice in off
Materiais Diversos + Regina Veloso/Demolition Incorporada
Agency and distribution
Sofia Matos/Materiais Diversos, Abroad, CAMPO, Brazil
Kunstenfestivaldesarts, Vooruit (Gent), Teatro Municipal do Porto Rivoli – Campo Alegre (Porto), Teatro Municipal Maria Matos (Lisbon), Alkantara Festival (Lisbon), Festival d’Automne à Paris / T2G-Théâtre de Gennevilliers (Paris), Montpellier Danse, Kyoto Experiment KEX, SPRING Festival (Utrecht), Tanz im August / HAU Hebbel am Ufer (Berlin), Künstlerhaus Mousonturm (Frankfurt), Göteborgs Dans & Teater Festival (Göteborg), Tanzhaus NRW (Düsseldorf), La Batie – Festival de Genève (Genève), Brazilian Government
This project was awarded by
Prêmio Funarte de Dança Klauss Vianna 2015
Teatro Municipal do Porto Rivoli – Campo Alegre, Künstlerhaus Mousonturm, PACT Zolverein, CAMPO – gestão e criação em arte contemporânea, Vooruit, Studios C de la B
Project co-produced by
NXTSTP, with the support of the Culture Programme of the European Union
When life empties itself into movement
Western artists began showing great interest in butoh dance in the 1980s. The performances of Kazuo and Yoshito Ohno were particularly inspirational and paved the way for other Japanese artists such as Ko Murobushi, Ushio Amagatsu, Anzu Furukawa and Carlotta Ikeda, who over the next decade or so started performing and training dancers in Europe and America.
The name Tatsumi Hijikata came out of the shadows. Hijikata actually never left Japan and after his death in 1986 it took some years for his research to eventually come to light. Films, programmes and photographs had been archived somewhat haphazardly in the small Asbestos kan studio where Hijikata and Akiko Motofuji lived and worked from the 1960s, while other works had been distributed among his disciples and friends. All that changed in 1998 when the Hijikata Tatsumi Archive was created at Keio University in Tokyo and the publishing house Kawade Shobo Shinsha published the first edition of his complete works (Hijikata Tatsumi Zenshû) in two volumes. In the end, a large proportion of his choreographies and research material were made accessible to the public for consultation in situ at Keio University or via the internet thanks to the digitalisation of several images.
Of these documents, the sixteen notebooks on his creations that constituted what is known as the butoh-fu notation system and the book Yameru Maihime (The Sick Dancer) have turned out to be particularly enigmatic. The notebooks included newspaper cuttings with paintings and photographs by artists he admired such as Goya, Klimt, Wolz, Bellmer, Picasso and Bacon. They also contained notes and diagrams. Although interpreted as studies that were intended to develop a specific method of creation in dance, these notebooks were more like a personal diary of an artist without concerns, full of instructive explanations. These projects, which were designed to systematise and decipher gestures, metaphors, instructions and norms of movement, were largely linked to the endeavours of his best students and dancers, such as Yukio Waguri, Moe Yamamoto and Kayo Mikami who developed methodologies for teaching butoh.
As for the book Yameru Maihime, Hijikata’s last work, it can be defined as an anti-autobiography since strictly speaking it does not deal with stories or events from the past. Rather it is a work constructed from a stream of perceptions about his homeland and his reflections on a tired body. There is an unexpected rhythm to it and an inexpressible link between what is said in it and who says it, with no clear separation between the writer and the events. A chaotic movement is created, with several shifts in phase between gestures and voice, with Hijikata remaining in the text while drastically changing the usual grammar of words and the same anti-method of his dances through movements. As far as I am aware, this book has never been published in full in a western language, but it has been disseminated in quotations that have been translated by researchers and artists interested in his work.
Butoh in Brazil
There has always been considerable interest in butoh in Latin America, particularly in Brazil, Argentina and Mexico. The first tour to the continent by Kazuo and Yoshito Ohno was in 1986 and it triggered a whole series of experiences that were initially coloured with exoticism, fetishism and personal development. Other possibilities subsequently opened up, with the publication in Portuguese of essays by the philosopher Kuniichi Uno (A Gênese de um Corpo Desconhecido – The Genesis of an Unknown Body, 2012) being based on experiences that endeavoured to identify a kind of butoh thinking and its philosophical power based on singular ways of seeing the body and territorial spaces. It is in this experimental setting that the work of the Brazilian choreographer Marcelo Evelin can be positioned.
Starting with a politico-existential perspective, Marcelo Evelin immersed himself in the remains he discovered of Hijikata’s work, always searching beyond a technical or exotic cultural context. As I see it, it is Hijikata’s ghost that has come to haunt him as an opportunity to deal with radical destabilisations by constructing a philosophy of life that, in trying to survive on the basis of a sickly dance, leads him to extreme exposure of the body. Thus it is not about adapting or learning a specific physical training. There is no relationship either with the imagination of transcendental butoh, as has been studied by other artists.
The movements constructed by Marcelo Evelin do not leave any room for ready identities, supposed aesthetic models and even less so for a fetishism of stereotypes. What is indicated by his research reinforces questions pertaining to sexuality, ritualization and echoes of voices and movements. Thus it is not about a discourse, but about the corrosion of bodies through words, images and feelings. And more than a model of cultural hybridisation, what is visible are the frictions running through it while symbolic representations, whether they come from Japan or Brazil, are resisted.
Starting points for a “Dança Doente” (Sick Dance)
It is important to note that although he comes from Brazil, Marcelo Evelin has always conducted his research by being intensely nomadic. As a dancer, his training came from cohabiting with foreign artists such as John Murphy in New York, with whom he created his company Demolition Incorporada in 1995, and with leading names on the European scene such as Odile Duboc, Pina Bausch, Mark Tompkins, Lila Green and Arthur Rosenfeld, with whom he studied and worked for the twenty years he spent outside Brazil. His partnership with the Netherlands has been particularly significant and continues to this day as Marcelo Evelin still teaches at the Mime School of the Amsterdam Academy of Theatre and Dance. This restless and dynamic stance has never pushed him to create dance companies or groups in a conventional way, as so often happens, but rather to develop platforms of creation and sharing, as has been the case with his company Demolition Inc. and Núcleo do Dirceu which he coordinated with young artists (mainly from Teresina) between 2006 and 2015 in the district of Dirceu.
In the specific case of Dança Doente, initial outlines for the project were based on a recognition of what north-east Brazil and north-east Japan have in common, more specifically Teresina (capital of Piauí) where Marcelo Evelin was born and Akita (Tohoku) where Hijikata was born. These two places share an extreme climate (unbearable summers and winters) and being stigmatised by their distance from large economic hubs and centres of tourism.
However the discussion does not just revolve around geopolitical matters. For example it could be speculated that this research began, without it being called as such, during the creation of the trilogy Os Sertões (Rebellion in the Backlands) by Euclides da Cunha, one of the great classicsof Brazilian literature. Indeed, to choreograph Sertão (2003), Bull Dancing (2006) and Matadouro (2010), Marcelo Evelin had already started studying the bridges between writing and the body, the earth and the harshness of life. In Mono (2008), which was created between these works, there was already an explicit reference to Hijikata, considered in this context as a kind of virtual mentor for dealing with issues of sexuality and gender using the manipulation of dolls. This could also suggest a confrontation of tensions between the animate body and the inanimate body, between subject and object.
In 2011, Marcelo Evelin was invited by the curator Yusuke Hashimoto to take part in the Kyoto Experiment performing arts festival with his work Matadouro (2010). This invitation, which has been repeated in subsequent years, opened up new areas of research. It also offered the concrete possibility of coming into contact with some of the primary sources of Hijikata’s work archived in Keio University and ending up in north-east Japan. Over several months he collected statements from critics, researchers and artists about Hijikata, butoh and north-east Japan. They included the dance critic Kazuko Kuniyoshi, the curator of the Hijikata archives Takashi Morishita, dancers Yoshito Ohno and Setsuko Yamada, and Kuniichi Uno in person. Their testimonies have without doubt been fundamental, along with his study of pictures and a trip to Akita, were he ended up being able to feel for himself the brutal cold that goes right through to your bones, the abandonment of the region, the belated reverence for an artist who for a long time was ignored as a kind of accursed artist, but who is increasingly being remembered not only on the contemporary art circuit, but by the elderly inhabitants of Tohoku who regularly meet to study his book.
It is also important to note that Marcelo Evelin has actually never managed to read Yameru Maihime because it has not been translated. However this has not stopped him from feeling in his flesh the sickness of death – the very one that has afflicted so many other artists such as Marguerite Duras, Clarice Lispector, Antonin Artaud and Vaslav Nijinsky.
There is a power in this exposure to death that reverberates beyond Hijikata, Brazil and Japan, in the territorial spaces of bodies that experience the risk of living without concession on the edge of the abyss.
Perhaps this is about the vitality of butoh, shifted away from itself and from its historical contexts, but still able to help us face the scarcity heralded in this age of radical neoliberalism.
Christine Greiner is a professor at the Pontifical Catholic University of São Paulo. She is the author of Leituras do Corpo no Japão e suas diásporas cognitivas (Lectures on the Body in Japan and its Cognitive Diasporas) (2015) and Corpo em crise (The Body in Crisis) (2010) among other works published in Brazil and abroad. She has also translated Kuniichi Uno’s books into Portuguese.Back to top
Marcelo Evelin (b. 1962) is a Brazilian choreographer, researcher and performer, and one of the most preeminent names in dance, performance and political action in contemporary art. He was based in Amsterdam from 1986 to 2006, where he collaborated with professionals from different disciplines on projects for the stage, videos, music, installations and site-specific work with his company Demolition Inc. He currently divides his time between Europe and his hometown of Teresina in Brazil, where he founded and coordinated the artistic collective Núcleo do Dirceu until 2013. He teaches improvisation and composition at the Mime School of the Academy of Theatre and Dance in Amsterdam, where he develops his own work while guiding students in their own creative processes. He has directed workshops and collaborative projects in Europe, South America, Africa and, recently, Japan. Two of his recent pieces, Matadouro (2010) and De repente fica tudo preto de gente (2012) continue to be presented at festivals and theatres around the world. Batucada (2014) has been performed in Frankfurt and in cities in Brazil, after premiering at the Kunstenfestivaldesarts.Back to top