That fact can be at least partly explained by the local presence of Koichi and Hiroko Tamano, who settled in the Bay Area and began teaching their often horrifying but always imaginatively driven art here 25 years ago. With the growing global popularity of butoh have come serious questions of authenticity, and the Tamanos, who -- with their Harupin-Ha Butoh Dance Company -- will perform a new evening-length work this Friday and Sunday, are nothing if not authentic. The couple apprenticed directly under one of butoh's three founders, the late Tatsumi Hijikata, and they have carefully preserved his style and technique. This lineage continues through Tamanos students Shinichi Momo Koga (who leads the butoh collective Inkboat) and Leigh Evans, who will perform Friday and Sunday nights, respectively.
But, happily, the organizers behind the Butoh Festival aren't sticklers for purity. "There is a lot of discussion in the butoh community about what is real and not real," says festival founder and butoh practitioner Brechin Flournoy. "And to me I look at it and it's all butoh, because I see the root of it. Frankly it's easy for me to do that because I'm an American and we're used to assimilating."
This year, the festival -- which in the past has shouldered such fruitful themes as "Women in Butoh" and "Butoh and German Expressionism" -- has selected the concept of ensemble for its unifying idea, and to that end has engaged groups from Canada (Kokoro Dance) and Germany (Anzu Furukawa's Verwandlungsamt), as well as solo artist Setsuko Yamada from Japan. All bring distinct influences to the floor, and all find their inspiration in everything from the paintings of Francisco de Goya to cockroaches. In the past, ensembles have been too costly for the festival to bring over, which makes this year's lineup a first. (Yamada and Evans do not perform in ensembles, but again, faithfulness to form is not the overriding factor). Also for the first time in the festival's history, all will perform evening-length works that should give the bay's hordes of butoh lovers and practitioners something to sink their teeth into.