Katsura Kan instructs in Butoh Dance

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

Butoh artist and teacher, Katsura Kan will be offering a lecture and two workshops on Butoh dance this week. The lecture will be given in LPAC at 7pm on Thursday and the Workshops run from 1-4 on Friday and Saturday in Troy Dance Lab.

Kan’s ongoing residency in Philadelphia will include a performance this Friday at the Mascher Space Co-op where he will perform the highly acclaimed “Curious Fish.” The Serendipity Fund of the William J. Cooper Foundation is sponsoring the events at Swarthmore.

A form of dance originating in Japan during the second half of the twentieth-century, Butoh is associated with unusual even grotesque content and unusual twists on traditional dance and choreography. Katsura Kan, a master Butoh artist, has worked with dancers around the world including in Indonesia, Thailand, the United States, as well as his native Japan.

Liza Clark ‘03, Arts Administration Intern of the Theater and Dance Departments, was among those involved in bringing Kan to Swarthmore this semester. She recalls Kan’s work in a performance and one day workshop last spring, “He really impressed me with the work he’d doing… He’s a beautiful mover, wonderful articulation… physicality.”

Clark believes that Swarthmore students across disciplines will benefit from Kan’s workshops and lecture. “He’s definitely a master teacher.” Kan has spent nearly thirty years dancing Butoh. “It’s a really neat thing to get exposure to.”

Clark also observed that, “Some people have very strong feelings about Butoh. There is a big range in different Butoh artists… Some of them deal in imagery of death and the grotesque parts of human nature. That’s one strain of Butoh. There are also some working with nature, more with the physical aspects of nature, like wind and trees…. A lot of what lies between animals and human [which] makes some people uncomfortable.”

Ultimately, Clark believes that the workshops and lecture will provide a unique opportunity for exposure to a non-western dance tradition with a strongly “internal” focus and an intriguing avant garde history. The workshops are open to the public, no previous experience necessary, and students can attend on either or both days. The lecture is entitled, “The Origins of Butoh in post-WWII Japan.”

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