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Breathtaking butoh in Earthbeat 2003

June 16, 2003|Victoria Looseleaf | Special to The Times

Many people may not comprehend the sound of one hand clapping, but 184 privileged persons were witness to a 45-minute mind-boggling performance by butoh master Oguri at Japan America Theater's George J. Doizaki Gallery on Saturday night.

His collaborators? Wadada Leo Smith, blowing the baddest trumpet and fluegelhorn this side of Miles Davis; Zen archer-artist Hirokazu Kosaka; and three tons of wet clay that not only functioned as a stage but served as a paradisiacal tableau.

Welcome to Earthbeat 2003.

Barefoot and clad in a pair of French cotton ecru-colored drawstring pajamas, Oguri, digging his curled toes into the clay, was the artery through which Smith's music flowed. And wailed. And trilled.

Talk about profound: Oguri, responding to Smith's sonic vibrations, leaned back as if suspended by a wire, his body a pipeline to God. He pirouetted, he did a madcap tango, he was melody.

Enter Kosaka, crouching, suddenly splattering black paint on white walls.

Oguri disrobed. Wearing only a braided thong, he gyrated ever so slowly in the now-black dappled clay -- Oguri as animated art -- as Nobuyo Okuda's 100 ceramic vessels, grouped onstage and fresh from the kiln, crackled as they cooled.

Outside a full moon rose. All was right with the world.

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