Arts & Theater

Dance show brings avant-garde Japanese art form to UC Davis performances

Dancers prepare for “Every-Body, No-Body” at UC Davis.
Dancers prepare for “Every-Body, No-Body” at UC Davis. Courtesy of UC Davis

Fluidity of motion and life-affirming philosophy will come alive at UC Davis with this week’s “Every-Body, No-Body” butoh performances. The shows are an exciting form of avant-garde Japanese dance, choreographed by guest artists Kota Yamazaki and Mina Nishimura.

“Every-Body, No-Body” features 10 dancers, comprised of a diverse mix of undergrad and graduate students, with the oldest performer nearly twice the age of the youngest. The hour-long performance is a feast of the senses with exciting music that goes from sounds from Puccini’s Madame Butterfly to contemporary electronic techno. The show features colorful, exotic costumes created by Tasa Gleason, who is graduating from the MFA program.

“Every-Body, No-Body” deals with friction and confusion in peoples lives and with their bodies. Performers go through precarious and individual journeys, back and forth between their bodies as objects and the slippery subject, the so-called ‘I’,” said Nishimura, granada artist in residence this quarter at UC Davis and co-choreographer of “Every-Body, No-Body.”

Nishimura, is originally from Tokyo and now lives in Brooklyn. She was introduced to butoh through Yamazaki in Japan and she also studied at Merce Cunningham Studio in New York. She is a respected performer and fan of butoh.

“Butoh was originally formed by Tatsumi Hijikata as an urgent and critical response to the Western cultural invasion in Japan after World War II,” said Nishimura. “But today, butoh became a universal practice and no longer is attached to Japanese identity. And each butoh practitioner carries their own principles, philosophies, languages and practices, so it is very hard to define what butoh is today. Often, butoh deals with somatic concepts such as sinking, decaying, weakening, emptying and forgetting, which could be contradicted to Western’s dance tradition. And instead of making movements, butoh navigates body to specific internal states, then explores what individual forms emerge out of it. So it’s an inside-out process.”

Fellow granada artist in residence Yamazaki studied with Akira Kasai, a pioneer of butoh. Rosy Co., his Tokyo-based dance group was founded in 1995. He has performed in theaters and festivals around the world.

The dancers were excited to have the opportunity to perform with these renowned practitioners of butoh.

Lena Rose Polzonetti, a graduate student originally from Ithaca, N.Y., who specializes in modern and contemporary dance, was intrigued by butoh after seeing the choreographers perform.

“I loved Mina and Kota’s performance at UCD in the winter quarter of last year, so I was excited to have the opportunity to work intensively with them,” said Lena Rose Polzonetti, UC Davis graduate student. “It’s such a pleasure to watch the work unfold each day.”

Diego Martinez-Campos, a graduate student from Mexico City, said he enjoys the juxtaposition of dance and theater.

“Being involved in this process under these two great choreographers has been an honor; it has opened a new door and given me a new approach to movement,” Martinez-Campos said. “It has allowed me to pay attention to the slightest sensation within my own body. It has given me an opportunity to engage with imagery, sounds, and words, and the way in which the bodies are moving in space throughout this piece definitely challenges the Western definition and perceptions of dance. I find it fascinating.”

Audiences — which are expected to total more than 500 people — can expect the unexpected when they see “Every-Body, No-Body.”

“The use of language, stillness, slowness and subtleness in this piece is also specific, which could bring a new experience to many audience members,” said Nishimura.

If You Go

Every-Body, No-Body

When: The performances Thursday through Saturday, at 7 p.m., with a 2 p.m. matinee on Saturday

Where: The main theatre of Wright Hall

Cost: Tickets are $10, $9 for faculty/staff and $7 for students/seniors, and are available online at or at the UC Davis Athletics Ticket Office, on the north side of Aggie Stadium, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, or by phone (530) 752-2471 during the same hours.