May I Speak About Dance? review at Summerhall, Edinburgh – ‘strange, funny and educational’
A hefty gold dildo makes a star turn in choreographer Boaz Barkan’s eccentric lecture-performance May I Speak About Dance? The shimmering phallus in question is held against the crotch of an undulating dancer, who’s trussed up in a kimono and bathed in sickly green light, during Barkan’s enthusiastic recreation of a key moment in dance history: the 1968 premiere of Japanese choreographer Tatsumi Hijikata’s Revolt of the Flesh.
As Barkan explains, Tatsumi was the founder of butoh, a stylised and often grotesque form of dance-theatre partly inspired by renegade French artistic figures such as Genet and Artaud.
In his engagingly energetic and casual style, Barkan goes on to note how Yvonne Rainer’s spectacle-denying tenets underpinned another side of 1960s avant-gardism in New York. All of this – the rejection of technique versus transformative pageantry – forms part of the perennial debate about dance. Why move? Why watch? What should dance do? And how do we talk about a wordless form?
Abrupt and occasionally bewildering, this show may not convert the dance-averse to take up a Sadler’s Wells season ticket, but Barkan wittily sends up the form’s tendency towards po-faced pretentiousness while making a lively case for a fresh interrogation of our ideas about dance.
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