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Meet the world of ''Butoh,'' the avant-garde dance born in Japan
Butoh performance by Tenko Ima at Kyoto Butoh-Kan

© Kyo Nakamura

Enter a small old Japanese earthenware storehouse with only eight seats prepared in the dimly lit interior. Sitting on a cushion waiting for the show to begin elevates your anticipation and apprehension. Suddenly, the space is plunged into absolute darkness and the tension reaches its peak, so much so that even your breathing temporarily ceases. To the sound and live music of shamisen, the solo performer of the evening, Tenko Ima, descends down the stairs and you are instantly drawn into the world of Butoh. No words are needed; merely focus on what unfolds before your eyes - this will tell you what Butoh is.

Butoh is an avant-garde dance born in Japan in the late 1950s. Expressing the spirit of Japan physicality and spirituality, the unique style of Butoh was a fresh challenge to the dance aesthetics of the time. Since then, Butoh has had a lasting impact on the world of dance. However, although highly recognized and esteemed abroad, information relating to Butoh in Japan is quite limited and there are actually few venues where one can experience a performance. In summer 2016, Art Complex opened the Kyoto Butoh-Kan, the world's first theatre expressly devoted to regular Butoh performances.

© Kyo Nakamura

''This earthen storehouse survived the upheavals of 150 years ago, escaping undamaged from the fires of the riots as if it were sacred ground protected by the divinity of water. Following the aspirations of this generation, I would like to present Butoh which offers the pure bright energy of water - the great source of all life and healer of beings,'' Ima States.

The piece Ima performs at Kyoto Butoh-Kan is titled ''Hisoku'' signifying a Japanese color, the mysterious beautiful sheen of Celadon porcelain after it emerges from the kiln miraculously transformed by the flames into a pale turquoise blue. Ima explains, ''For me, Hisoku is bound up with aqueous images: wellsprings, waterfalls, tears... In Japan, colors are not just designators of hue, but are profoundly bound up in delicate sentiments, premonitions, intonations, and affections. I would like to go with the audience to touch that which lies at the depths of all that we hear and see.''

Tenko Ima - A true inheritor of Butoh

© Kyo Nakamura

In the 80s, Tenko Ima was a core member of Byakkosha, one of the most acclaimed Butoh groups, and performed with distinct recognition both abroad and locally. Upon their breakup in 1994, she became an independent dancer, and went on to form the Butoh Company Kiraza, which toured Europe in 2005. Through the exploration of the avant-garde form of Butoh, which is supported by the Shinto practice of Tamafuri, ''reinvigorating the soul,'' a practice seen at the heart of Japanese performing arts, Ima explores the frontiers of her own art and self.

Kyoto Butoh-Kan: Every Thursday, 2 shows a day from 18:00 and 20:00 (reception opens 20 minutes before the show); 3,000 yen (students: 2,500 yen); 8 seats only per show; www.butohkan.jp