Butoh Beethoven

In a piece that is at times frightening, at times energising and constantly absorbing, solo-performer Vangeline is our white-collared conductor, guiding us through a piece which abstractly explores the work and legacy of Beethoven and Tatsumi Hijikata, the founder of butoh. Using subtle and raw choreography, brilliant accompaniment and the power of her presence, Vangeline succeeds in bringing an essence of these iconic individuals to life on stage.

One of the highlights of the piece is when Vangeline’s shadow is dancing with her, its flickering form mirroring her intricate movements

The show enthrals from start to finish. Vangeline’s performance is deeply engrossing and demands attention. Even as she stands on stage in almost total darkness, the tension created pulls our focus towards her, leaving us waiting with bated breath for the next glimpse of her movement. From her endlessly expressive face to her masterful pace control, with commanding stillness interspersed with moments of high energy, the choreography is powerful yet simple.

The show has been impeccably designed, and works really well in the space. The presence or absence of light adds a second dimension to the piece. One of the highlights of the piece is when Vangeline’s shadow is dancing with her, its flickering form mirroring her intricate movements. 

Music, words and sounds wash over the audience and guide the performance along though the sections, providing both a structure for the piece as a whole and a deeply immersive sensory overload. Vangeline has a real feel for the accompaniment, whether it is Beethoven’s fifth or the sound of the ocean incessantly crashing in the distance. However, the symbolism behind a dress made from white-collared shirts and the audience of pigs is arguable.

Reviews by M Johnson

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The Blurb

European premiere. New York butoh star Vangeline conjures ghosts of two passionate giants – founder of butoh Tatsumi Hijikata and composer Ludwig van Beethoven – in this hypnotic, electrifying and award-winning solo performance. ‘Bone-chilling’, Best Dance 2011 (Time Out Chicago). ‘Transfixing’ Best of 2011 (TheatreInLA.com). 'Grotesquerie and ecstasy … captivating in her devotion to simple movements' (NY Times). ‘A cross between a goth crone and a kabuki’ (StageAndCinema.com). Vangeline's costume is created by New York designer Todd Thomas (Katy Perry Prismatic Tour), inspired by Hijikata's 1968 costume for his final solo performance.