By Monique Jones
By Ciara LaVelle
By Jeff Weinberger
By Monique Jones
By Travis Cohen
By Liz Tracy
By Terrence McCoy
An intense fascination with the visual image seems to be a common element in dance-theater artists. Butoh-based choreographer and performer Helena Thevenot of Blu also works within the dance-theater genre but in a radically different way. One of Thevenot's recent pieces, Strewn Flowers, was inspired by young girls prostituting themselves in an upper-class Falls-like mall in Nicaragua, her native land. “Certain images haunt me. I am interested in images that speak to the subconscious; I am not interested in telling stories.”
Butoh, an avant-garde Japanese form, emerged in the 1950s as a way to express the trauma and devastation of the war. The movements are concentrated and slow and the lines contract often, evoking primal shapes. “Some might say that what I do with butoh is not dance, but I can't do anything but dance. That's my training. You don't throw away what you have learned; you just use it differently. I am doing dance. It's just not a form that is recognizable and socially acceptable,” says Thevenot.
In her next performance, The Anatomy of Desire/Relics, Thevenot will collaborate with experimental composer Gustavo Matamoros and filmmaker Dinorah de Jesus Rodriguez. The drama will be expressed not through story but anatomy. The shin, shoulder, forearm -- each body part is explored. Thevenot continues to delve into the internal workings of female sexuality and desire, from the innocent to the bizarre. Layers of images will be projected on the set and on Thevenot's body in conjunction with the deconstructed sound score. One medium she will use to examine the “layers” that often confine us in contemporary society is plastic wrap. “Handi-Wrap,” she qualifies, “will actually be part of my costume at one point.”
Matamoros and Thevenot have been collaborating for two years. Like Thevenot, the composer sees his art as an investigation. “In the past sound has been secondary,” he says. “You could write music and play it on the violin or guitar or banjo. In my work sound is primary, and every sound is valid, so the challenge is how to organize these sounds.” Based on the idea that Thevenot might be hanging at some point during the performance, Matamoros has been working with pendulumlike sounds, moving back and forth like ropes and swings.
Luquini's Akropolis and Thevenot's Blu span a vast spectrum of what can be considered dance theater. Unlike more traditional performance forms, these events are shrouded in a bit of mystery. “I ask that the audience be very present and go through this experience with me. The audience is invited on a journey of big questions and small questions,” says Thevenot. Audience members at Flagrante Delicto also can look for a unique experience. “Don't expect to find villains and heroes in our work,” she adds. “It is like a photo album of snapshots. When you open the book on your own, the images you encounter might surprise you.”