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Linda Stout: Blog

My other performance art

Posted on January 29, 2014 with 0 comments
I had my debut recently as a dancer. I'd done a little musical theater dancing and singing as a teenager, but this is different. After years of taking classes in Ithaca with Amanda Moretti, Mee Ae Caughey and workshops from our New York-based teacher Vangeline, I danced in a butoh ensemble performance this week at Fall Creek Studios in Ithaca. We danced in white body paint, which is traditional to butoh, a Japan-born form of modern dance theater. We all wore satin ball gowns, even the two men in the ensemble. The performance also included a solo piece by Mee Ae, a former member of Vangeline Theater.

Butoh is amazing to me, so inward, requiring strength and focus, and very creative, as in most workshops and classes, with prompting there is a huge amount of room for individual interpretation, maybe like jazz in that way. It has a form, but there is a great amount freedom for the dancer. Often the freedom for me comes out of going very deep into an emotion, and then seeing it dissolve. There are ways this is sacred, a shamanistic act. It's so hard to differentiate spirituality from art, even though butoh is no religion. Well, maybe it is for some dancers. I experience butoh like a meditation it's so dependent upon intense focus. There's often a grounded downward energy. Thanks to Amanda Moretti, counting all my years of musical performing, which has had great moments, I have to say one if not the peak artistic experiences of my life was in a class in October or November, that I had just suddenly become free. I didn't know I could dance like I did. I don't know if I ever will again, being such a fleeting, here one moment, gone the next kind of art form. Amanda said it was like she'd gone to Germany and seen a Pina Bausch dancer.

Words and sound are useful, and I'm geared for the auditory, but sometimes there aren't words. I need dance for that. (Sometimes, as in theater workshops, we also make a lot of noise, but not usually, and our policy is to start classes in silence. I feel really lucky to be a dancer. If you'd asked me years ago, even though I took some dance classes and wrote about dance as a young journalist, I would never have predicted I would have said that, that I'm a dancer. And every now and then in class, something familiar will come over the sound system, my song "The Pasture."

Our close-knit Ithaca butoh group members, having now made our debut, have talked about applying to be part of a fringe art festival.