Produced by Omnivore Performance in association with Kokoro Dance.
Duration: 40 minutes
Review in The Dance Current:
Matthew Romantini gave himself a great challenge by commissioning longstanding neo-butoh choreographer Barbara Bourget of Kokoro Dance to create a solo that tested his mettle. Audiences got a good sense of Romantini’s strengths as a performer, and the expanding vision and possibilities for such collaboration.
Painted in the standard white-rice powder of butoh, the dancer wears black pants. His bare chest and bare feet are also painted, giving him this pure, otherworldly quality. At once, he gestures toward a place or person beyond the immediate stage space, making us look and feel beyond the courtyard in which the action takes place. In another scene, perhaps the most visceral, the character seems to be holding a small figure: a baby or animal of some kind. He caresses it, at first in a nurturing way, and then, he mimics “taking a bite” out of this very life. The image may seem gruesome, but is somehow reconciled by the fact that it reminds us of the tragic reality that unfolds every day in the human and natural worlds. Soon after, the dancer pulls string, flesh and bone from his mouth. The power of the work is that it gives us enough to spur the imagination into new territory, and is simple enough to hold our attention. In another scene, Romantini seems to pull something from his back, creating a miniature universe just beyond our very eyes. His closing steps are thoughtful, methodical and intimate: his eyes acknowledge mine, and I see him see me. Bourget brings out the most compelling and natural moments, coaching her dancer to reveal mundane moments in a lively, attentive manner. Romantini has studied and performed with Bourget and her husband, Jay Hirabayashi, in other Kokoro Dance productions, and their butoh aesthetic is well known to West Coast audiences. With this work, there seems to be a hopeful future in this unique theatrical dance form: hopefully it won’t be the last solo Romantini offers to dance audiences.