Passages through the skin

butoh, butô, choreography, dance, performance

Centre de Création Choréographique Luxembourgeois, Luxembourg
3rd February 2018

Live music Kevin Muhlen and Angelo Mangini
Videos Gast Bouschet and Nadine Hilbert
Costume Katie Martin
Photographs Katie Pollard; Zoé Nameche.

The dance of fantasm with flesh

The dance of fantasm with flesh

Passages through the skin is the second collaboration with Gast Bouschet and Nadine Hilbert, musicians Kevin Muhlen and Angelo Mangini, and designer Katie Pollard.

Evolving from the Night at BPS22 in Charleroi, I sought in my choreography to evoke a descendant of 'the sorceress' who manifested in our previous work. Projections of that work on the walls at Trois C-L made visible the fantasm of the sorceress as a spectral presence, the past cut into and looming over the performance.

For Passages through the skin I retained the structure from the first performance, of two dramatic movements: Towards life and Towards death; yet with the intention to retrieve the knowledge of another woman who is all but lost to us: the munabbiâtu – a diviner by ghosts, or necromancer – who is the focus of the oracle or curse of Ezekiel 13: 17–22:

"Woe to those who sew fetters on all wrists and make shawls for heads of every height, in order to hunt souls. Will you hunt the souls of my people, and make your souls live? You have profaned me to my people for handfuls of barley and pieces of bread, making die souls that should not die, and making live souls that should not live, while you lie to my people, you who listen to lies. Therefore thus says the Lord Yahweh: I will go up against your fetters with which you hunt the souls like birds, and I will tear them from your arms and shoo away the souls that you hunt, the souls like birds. I will tear off your shawls and snatch my people from your hand, and they will no longer be prey in your hands, [...] you will no longer see empty visions and practice divination.”

One of the intentions driving my work is the retrieval of ways of knowing, of practices, proper to the bodies of women; knowledge that has been suppressed, forbidden and lost, but which I believe is recoverable through an active inquiry into the body's mysteries. The figure of the munabbiâtu was a threat to male priestly control; translated into English as 'witch' or 'false prophetess,' her practice was delegitimised and has only been reconsidered in the light of feminist biblical scholarship. The office of the munabbiâtu intrigued me, holding the power as she did to bring souls into the world or to send them to death. The question I asked myself in the choreography, in performance, was how does one make a soul live, and how does one make it die? The answer I began to sense in my body, and in the dreams that followed the performance. In the process of developing the dance I faced waves of internal and bodily resistance, due to the intensely personal nature of the inquiry I was engaged in. It is by no means over, although through the dance a vision and a divination was given to me. And an understanding that to dance precariously, to dance at the edges of the body, one must surrender oneself to a 'regime of tenderness':

"The epiphany of the Beloved is but one with her regime of tenderness. The way of the tender consists in an extreme fragility, a vulnerability. It manifests itself at the limit of being and non-being..." – Emmanuel Levinas, Totality and Infinity, 1961.