Category Archives: History

The history of Butoh

10th Asheville Butoh Festival

Yumiko Yoshioka

The 10th Asheville Butoh Festival
April 7-10, 2016
BeBe Theatre, 20 Commerce Street, Asheville, NC


Thursday/Friday, April 7th & 8th – 7:30 pm
Before The Dawn created and performed by Yumiko Yoshioka
General Admission $18, Students and Seniors $15

*This event was generously funded by
Derek Dominy & Denise Carbonell @ The Cotton Mill Studios

Saturday/Sunday, April 9th & 10th – 1:00-5:00 pm
Workshops by Yumiko Yoshioka $40;  $75 for both

Saturday, April 9th – 7:30 pm
Local Color, 
Asheville’s own butoh crew: Sara Baird, Julie B Gillum,
Constance Humphries,
and Julia Taylor
With composers: Elisa Faires and Meghan Mulhearn
General Admission $18, Students and Seniors $15

Sunday, April 10th – 7:30 pm
strange daughters, an evening of solos by Jenni Cockrell 
General Admission $18, Students and Seniors $15

Reservations: BeBe Theatre 828 254 2621
Box Office hours: M – F, 3:00 – 6:00 pm

Produced by Julie Gillum and Asheville Contemporary Dance Theater

Asheville Butoh Festival on Facebook

 2016 marks the 10th Asheville Butoh Festival and twenty years of butoh dance in Asheville. Julie Becton Gillum and the Asheville Contemporary Dance Theatre have collaborated to produce this uncommon festival. For Asheville Butoh’s landmark year, we have invited Yumiko Yoshioka, world renowned butoh performer and teacher to share her talents with us. Cities such as Portland, San Francisco, Vancouver, Montreal, New York, Chicago, and Asheville are havens for butoh dance, still finding itself in North America.

In honor of our 10th anniversary we have asked Yumiko to perform her seminal work Before the Dawn, a piece that represents butoh at its most profound level of movement exploration and philosophical inquiry. In this evening length epic, Yumiko Yoshioka, through her own transformation, illuminates secrets in our bodies. Her movement and gestures, execute a divine incantation in which she invites the sublime and monstrous beings from dreams and nightmares to dance with her. Her performances will be Thursday April 7 and Friday April 8 at 7:30 PM.

Yumiko will teach two butoh and organic movement workshops on Saturday April 9 and Sunday April 10, 1:00 – 5:00 PM. Cost is $40 for each workshop or $75 for both. The body is a receptacle of time. Body Resonance is a key to open the ever changing world inside and outside of us. The body unfolds its secrets, holding them up until they reverberate within the surrounding Universe. A dance of metamorphosis inevitably appears. One step to metamorphosis! All levels are welcome to this 8 hour corporeal feast. Performances and workshops take place at the BeBe Theatre, 20 Commerce Street in downtown Asheville.

Local contemporary butoh will feature prominently in the Asheville Butoh Festival. Performances by Sara Baird, Jenni Cockrell, Constance Humphries, and Julia Taylor will highlight this year’s anniversary show. Composers Elisa Faires and Meg Mulhearn will make spotlight appearances to accompany in the Local Color show.

Butoh originated in post-WWII Japan as an artistic reaction to the chaotic climate in the country following the war and the uneasy shift towards democratic values. Butoh dance is a postmodern movement in which formal dance technique is eschewed in favor of primal and idiosyncratic movements. Butoh was born from an amalgamation of influences including the German Expressionistic dances of Mary Wigman and Harold Kreutzberg, western writers Genet, Artaud and de Sade, and the artistic movements of Surrealism and Dada. Butoh uses the body brazenly, in its most corporeal state, as a battleground to attain personal, social, or political transformations. Butoh dance challenges convention and avoids definition in order to reveal the fervent beauty of the unique human spirit.

Dancer, choreographer, teacher, art director, Yumiko Yoshioka was born in Tokyo, and has been residing in Germany since 1988. In the early seventies and eighties, she was a member of the first women’s Butoh dance company, ARIADONE. In 1978, she performed with Ko Murobushi and Carlotta Ikeda in Paris, in the first Butoh performance outside of Japan. She was also a member of tatoeba
 GROTESQUE with Minako Seki and delta RA’i.

Yumiko’s art-formation group TEN
, is a collaborative company residing at Schloss Broellin in northeastern Germany. Here, Yumiko researches the interactivity between dance, space, and visual art, exploring new zones in body works and performing arts.

Besides international tours throughout Asia, Europe, Oceania and North /South America, Yumiko, in collaboration with delta RA’ i, directs eX…it !, Dance Exchange Research Project. Since 1995, more than 100 artists and dance students from all over the world have participated in this exciting festival of contemporary butoh.

Rikka Shimputai Sea Grapes 2016

We are pleased to announce that Emiko Suzuki and the WNC Japanese Culture Center will provide lovely ikebana arrangements that will be up for silent auction at every performance. These beautiful floral gifts will help to support the Asheville Butoh Festival as well as introduce Emiko and Japanese culture to Asheville audiences.

WNC Japanese Culture Center at 629 5th Avenue West in downtown Hendersonville, is a dream venue of Manabu and Emiko Suzuki who are originally from Japan. They wish to share their native culture by teaching Origami, Japanese songs, Ikebana (traditional flower arrangement) and the tea ceremony ritual. The center shows Japanese films and provides gallery space for art related to Japanese culture. Emiko is an advisor of Ikenobo Ikebana Society (Blue Ridge Chapter) and Ikebana International (Asheville Chapter.) Ikebana and the tea ceremony are traditional Japanese art forms whose ritual and aesthetic have been transferred generation by generation for more than 500 years in Japan. Emiko has been studying these traditions for over 30 years.

For more information or to register for classes contact Emiko Suzuki, director of WNCJCC at



A TECHNIQUE FOR BUTOH DANCE    (6-week series) 

Taught by: Julie Becton Gillum

Mondays 6:30-8:30 pm, 2/15 – 3/21, 2016
Where: French Broad Studios, 475 Fletcher Martin Road
Cost: 6-session series is $100 OR $20 per session

Based on exercises and improvisations from Butoh training, Noguchi Gymnastics, and Modern Dance, this course aims to introduce a method for training and preparing the body to dance butoh. Classes will introduce, explore, and develop physical skills and anatomical theories of the body. Graham’s contract/ release theories, Humphrey /Limon’s concepts of fall /recover /rebound /suspend, Cunningham’s isolation and articulation practices, as well as Noguchi’s work with body as a water bag will provide material to assist in developing alignment, control of the center, and balance which are necessary for any dance or theatre performance. We will explore how to shape space through the timing and effort of our own creative energy, applying it in collaboration with gravity, and other physical forces. From the tiniest twitch to fully realized body forms and actions, the purpose of this work is to find the unique expression of your personal interior and exterior corporeal functions.
828 683 1377


Produced by Legacy Butoh and Asheville Contemporary Dance Theatre

September 2014   Asheville, NC

Written By Ken Fitch

On first alert, one might not expect to come upon a festival celebrating the Japanese avant garde performance art of Butoh in the foothills of Western North Carolina, but for 9 years, Asheville has hosted such a gathering of these highly disciplined, committed artists in a performance form that, despite what some might expect from its exotic name and descriptive terminology, provides a most intense and accessible experience that communicates on deeper, basic  existential levels that dispel any preconceptions through its  fascinating presentation of precise and intense movement that generates its own realm of human experience.

Indeed, the description of an avant garde movement emanating from Japan might seem connotatively distant, but the work, with its rigorous physical styles of performance,  and with its intense awareness of the fragmentation and viscerality of human experience has resonated internationally since its beginnings in 1959, especially in the cultural pockets where  an International awareness of Far Eastern traditional forms such as Japanese Noh and Kabuki had long had  an impact on visual arts, writing and theater. In the 60’s,  similar efforts to recapture the visceral physical experience  appeared in the work of international groups like the Polish Mime Theater, and in a performance style that might have correspondence in the work of  such groups here as The Living Theater, The Open Theater, and The Bread and Puppet Theater, that stepped into their own rhythms of expression  providing remembered counterparts.

The confrontation with destructive and deteriorating environments that also is a focus of Butoh exploration was a frequent presence as well in the early Happenings.

In actuality, Asheville and the surrounding region, far from remaining stolidly provincial and in the “boonies,” has had a tradition of nurturing those artists whose work emerged from an organic experience  with insights that were forged from the transformational process, whether it be the vanguard artists who gathered at Black Mountain College in the 40’s and 50’s, or the individuals whose treks to points elsewhere burst forth with visionary achievements on the world’s stages in artistic and political areas, confronting psychic imbalances with a full field response that was uncompromising and visceral at its core.

The Butoh practice seems to thrive here in this location. Indeed, early Japanese visitors to the area saw familiar correspondences to the homeland landscape a continent and ocean away. It is also a region of timeless natural beauty, but also alive with the ghosts of the past and memories of faraway battles.

That this art form should be thriving and intensifying in skill and accomplishment should be no surprise, as war and annihilation threaten from afar once more, and the treasured local landscape reveals new discoveries of the detritus and endemic physical contamination that eerily correspond to the awareness that gave rise to the Butoh worldview in a place where a nuclear/apocalyptic inheritance hovered and emerged. Here and now, residents confront the newly discovered residual presence of threats such as Coal Ash Ponds, and contaminated brown fields under homes and schools that generate headlines at the very time this Festival gathers.

A region keenly aware of its human ghosts, now confronts the nightmare of newly discovered hazards.

A performance style that embraces the rage, devastation and annihilation with quicksilver shifts and transformations now grabs us on a level beneath the cognitive.

The artists who have been embodying and nurturing this exploration seem to rise with relevance, distinction, and accomplishment, generating growing interest that, in a uniquely American way, is welcoming and inclusive; so that the appearance of Butoh events on local streets, in parks and neighborhoods becomes a neighborly presence in its exploration of both celebration and devastation; so that on a recent weekend, it was not unexpected to see dancers costumed with animal masks hanging out of windows, sitting on trees, and walking down neighborhood streets, heralded only by startled dogs.

The Americanization of this form, especially as adopted, embraced and nurtured by Julie Becton Gillum, one of the premier performing artists of the region, has created a home that  brings together an artistic family to a place of gathering and performance through the work of Legacy Butoh and Asheville Contemporary Dance Theater, so that it is no surprise that this vibrant, growing community of committed artists also attracts visitors from native and international contexts to explore and transform in this city.

While the press accounts purport the presence of authentic Japanese Dance, what is happening here is actually something more, as the Butoh form is expanding and widening in its focus and embrace in direct experience that is universal, transcendent and devastating at the same time; and not because of adherence to the form, but rather a commitment to exploration that journeys out into a reclaiming of human experience that is transforming.

It is dance, but those who may view it from other performance disciplines may feel that it is also close to mime or performance art. We are in a time where specific elements from multiple disciplines commonly and unexpectedly appear in the latest cutting edge commercial performances, a phenomenon that is a reflection of the universal inclusiveness and connectivity that renders all modes and representations accessible and relevant in the work of its perpetrators, discoverers, explorers, and guides in the new Millennium.

The particular focus of this year’s Festival, sponsored by Legacy Butoh and Asheville Contemporary Dance Theatre, has been described as “exploring women’s issues,” although one should not be misled or fooled into considering what we see as limited in its exploration, for, in moment after moment, the world in which these women are journeying is the complex society, world and universe inhabited by us all.

The prime program event for this Festival, “Women of Butoh,” is certainly in no way limited. In fact, the program is actually liberating and empowering in its pared down renderings, and the small BeBe Theater provides a concentrated directness that is inescapable.

One might try to sit and observe dispassionately and analytically, but once one accepts the notion of the perspective generously offered here, and opens oneself to what will emerge, harrowing insights and experiences will appear.

This is work, that while intensely personal, emanating as it does from the body with all its physical, and also neurological, and emotional consciousness to which it is bonded, but it is also work that continually engages an interface with the outside world in its impinging, restricting, attracting and universal powering, and these short pieces have the potential to upend one’s balance at the very times that the performers struggle physically and existentially to maintain theirs before our eyes.


“Descansos” Conceived and Performed by Megan Ransmeier

At the very start of the evening, after a gracious introduction and greeting by Ms. Gillum, we are confronted by a work of harrowing physicality, “Descansos,” conceived and performed by Megan Ransmeier

In the darkness  a pounding of feet is heard, blunt and uncompromising, and  then, the rising lights reveal Megan Ransmeier, a poetic dancer, known locally  for her radiant grace, standing in a Butoh stance, costumed in a swaddling drapery that is statuesque but restricting. A striking intensity is evident from the start, and in a terrifying transition she bends over, almost in subjugation, to reveal the parched skull of a horse, emblematic of the embodiment that will take over and exist in dual presence with terrifying bridled intensity.

At times, the reining in is experienced directly as the woman/creature is reined in by the bit in her mouth, and it all becomes frighteningly palpable. Ms. Ransmeier, solely through the landscape of her visage, provides consciousness-rending images that penetrate deep within, with a monumental solo reality of pain and existence, united in a formidable amalgam of silent terror.

The exposure here is unrelieved, as the burdened, constrained and now humiliated creature with breast exposed is forced onward in a slow impending pace, with the presence of Ms. Ransmeier crying out to us in silence with an unspoken question:  What does it mean to treat another in this way?

The Program Credits for this piece: “Direction and Sound by Julie Becton Gillum,” denote a technical, organizational participation, but in no way will this designation prepare the audience for Ms. Gillum’s astonishing presence and her integral part of the performance that will proceed with the force of ancient destiny that will be invoked and provoked into a binding focus.

Seated on the edge of the carpet, she will play objects with a rueful and ruthless focus and specificity, alternately magisterial and watchful, shamanistic and divinistic.

With a force that emanates from an ancient core, she will counterpoint, reinforce and direct the ominous trots and preparations for gallop that the woman will endure, but never as a partner, but rather as an archetypal shaman, playing bones to shake the marrow of existence.

Her performance could stand alone, as could that of Ms. Ransmeier, but the coexistence creates tensions and counterpoints that intensify the harrowing journey that one senses  will grow further in intensity as performances of this work continue.


“Gravida” Choreographed by Amy Hamilton

From the darkness, we perceive an illuminated tree, emanating from the trunk of a woman who is in the darkness, a growing tree, but ominously the branches are dead. Illuminated by a red light that exposes unnaturally in a hazardous confrontation from which the figure cowers, she is in a world here that is hostile, ever threatening, limiting and controlling, but despite this, the physicalization of the character thrives in its own strength and glory, summoning powerful reserves in every position. In every confrontation, there may be reactive restraint, but the inner resolution and personal empowerment shine forth uncompromised. The performance here is viscerally impressive, in powerful positions masterfully realized.  Then, in an absolutely stunning coup de theatre, the woman, from the depth of her inner core, bears an egg, vulnerable to all threats, protecting it, nurturing it, until powerfully, she offers it in outreach, and then looks away as it is let go, falling and breaking. Then, she will move on, bereft now of the tree of life she has borne, leaving the audience with powerful, indelible images that will haunt for days after.


“Mer” Choreographed and Performed by Julia Taylor

As this tour de force begins, we discover 2 figures enwrapped on the floor, but then, to our amazement we discover that the actuality is that it is one person and a quilt, but the greater reality is that others do indeed appear as the quilt becomes alive in constant, deeply felt, fully experienced interactions in which a miraculously rendered projection evolves into an empowered presence summoned from an experience that takes place before our eyes as we witness an entire lifetime churn, evolve and devolve before us in a breathtaking witness to the binding of life experience.

We see the writhing, interactive coupling of ecstasy, and then, the receding and flowing interactions that will morph into a pregnancy that soon becomes a growing heavy burden, and then a miraculous birth before our eyes . . . but life is a process of greater convolutions as the churning interactions continue with growth, separation, abandonment and struggle, often with agony, but no ecstasy . . . And then, in a riveting final image, an eventual disappearance on a flat plane that is the end line of existence.

This truly remarkable work is one of the most extraordinary performances one could encounter anywhere, a towering achievement by any measure, deserving a permanent place in the memory of one’s experience, encountering life in the overflow as relentless and enduring as the sea from which the piece takes its name.


“Spun” Created and Performed by Jenni Cockrell

“Spun,” created  and performed by Jenni Cockrell, clearly begins as more of a dance than the preceding pieces on the program with its slow, flowing, spin movements, smoothly and cleanly articulated, rendered with a high degree of skill and accomplishment, but soon the flow and movements become angular, as an American Flag appears dimly in the background, clearly signaling that the construction we are seeing also has a socio-political context, and the dance  becomes an uneasy journey, ultimately lowering the dancer down to a subservient, broken position that almost  brings the movement to a stop, but from this position, an anger emerges from an inner reserve with a disfigured ferocity, provoking the realization that all that has gone before has led to this. The billowing anger /rage now flows into the interactions, transferring this newly discovered rage into a reactive mode. Whereas earlier, there was a free spin, now the reactions are dispassionate, just going through the motions (literally), disconnected from the core that has been transformed in its newly discovered angry awareness.

Now, all is drawn into an intense withdrawal in a climactic spin that is deeply disturbing with the compelling awareness of both its personal and larger inescapable social contexts.

Whereas traditionally, the dance is a form for opening up, here it is subversively and ruthlessly directed to a process of shutting down, and we are left unexpectedly shut out and immobilized on the dance floor of life to ponder in silence.


“Internal Delights” Created by Susan Collard and Interpreted by Sharon Cooper

Although seemingly benign, the title masks a far more disturbing journey in the face of imposed applications in which delight is discovered and truly experienced only when there is a self-empowerment.

At the opening, in an aural environment of soothing flowing music that will morph into a French art song, we discover a body, face down on the floor, decorated in fascinating, flowering body paint, an elegant, sensuous application that  will continue to fascinate as the figure arises and moves through the space.

The viewer’s reaction to the visual display in applied floral patterns becomes startlingly palpable as the audience in an intensified step of audience connection, throws flowers at this figure that writhes in horror.

We are soon aware of the discrepancy between the flowing body paint design and the wrenching pain beneath the overlap that is imposed upon her.

The devastating social context is never absent as the dark skin bears the resilience of overt and passive impersonal imposition.

At times the woman, objectively emblemized in a sensuous, erotic overlay that becomes, in many ways, very constricting, and only after time, is she freed to luxuriate in the tactility of an experience, washing herself in the removal of the emblematic paint, for only then, can she begin to drink and taste the beauty herself that prior to this had been an imposition only enjoyed by others. In this new freedom, a frenzy erupts frighteningly as she tries to take on forces reimposing on her and her skin by now partaking of the flowing rather than being the object of others.

After the buffeted turmoil and process of personal empowerment and escape from decorative and intensely impersonal imposition, artful though it may be, in an ultimate private personal act, she gives birth to a stream of red flowers, although it is also at the same time a menstrual stream of blood red leaves, that is ultimately terrifying in its implications. As she rises and walks on, greeted by a celebration of beauty in song (that was greeted with hilarity by some of the audience), the irony here is that the experience of this very human person here and her future is ultimately terrifying in the realization of the tortured journey of release within the overlay of creation recently undergone, but also the residual impositions that still remain, remnants of imposition that we still might too quickly and easily ramose.

This is bold stuff, for sure. Relentlessly honest, body and soul laid bare, the extraordinary performance by Sharon Cooper is raw and challenging, revealing that beneath her natural elegance, the persona before us has had to live, facing the constant challenge of projected impositions that have penetrated to the depths of her being.


“Fifth of Beethoven-Admiring Tatsumi Hijikata” Choreographed and Performed by Vangeline

The inclusion of the local premiere of “Fifth of Beethoven-Admiring Tatsumi Hijikata” as a highlight of the Festival, attests to the importance of this work that has been acclaimed internationally with its stated tributes to a Japanese Butoh master.

As a solo work, this is the most cosmic and transmigrational in concept, and most densely populated, and indeed it is a shift, and an earthshaking one, a shift that is both perceptually and transactionally different from the intensely personal, although universal, works that preceded it.

One should quickly assert that the experience of this important work in the small intense space might be quite different from the other venues in which it has appeared that might elicit a quite different audience relationship as worlds are bridged in correspondence, counterpoint and mirrored desolations.

Here, we are intensely thrust into it all without compromise, sitting as we are, brought to the edge of disaster, that perhaps other venues more impersonally and more spatially dynamic would draw into the cataclysm of the universe in different ways, but here we are in a front row seat in the maelstrom that will envelope us before we know it.

Prior to the performance, as the accoutrements of the mise en scene for the performance are gathered and placed before our eyes, one is led to expect a whimsical work as the row of pigs’ head masks is hoisted at the back of the performance space, and a circle of white pebbles is dutifully laid out by the other performers of the evening in a gesture of hospitality and welcoming community.

In the darkness, the performance begins. The space is enmeshed with sounds: bells, chimes, and then the sounds of overflights intensifying, and then a flashing red light that betokens an air raid. When the red light fades, we hear the unmistakable sounds of an orchestra tuning up, and the only light then is a baton that reveals a ghostly figure in black, but as the light soon reveals, she is facing compass points until centrally poised, standing, with her back to the audience, then slowly disrobing to reveal a striking white garment. The sounds have now shifted, and we hear the sounds of applause, and the line of pigs’ masks is illuminated as this ghostly conductor turns to face us to conduct the iconic chords of Beethoven’s “5th Symphony.”

Almost by habit, one is transported to the great international concert halls of the world, which bear with them their own special temple archetypal resonances.

While the presence of the ghostly conductor before us is Asian in appearance, the behavior mode in conjunction with conducting the music is clearly European, setting the tribute juxtaposition of European culture with Japanese culture . . . but it will be further intensified visually and aurally as one of the iconic works of western civilization is juxtaposed with an iconic visual presence of an iconic Asian Butoh artist. There is a confluence of archetypes here juggling for our attention, a crashing archetypal enmeshment that is flabbergasting to consider: the ghost with its ancestral but also demonic aspects, the concert hall as temple and the conductor who unleashes the forces of sound and fury, within and without.

The subversion underway here, though, is more surreptitious.

For a time, in this space, in this time, in this context, it is easy to be lulled into the benign listening familiarity of a generous chunk of Beethoven’ s 5th, and into the awareness of the vaunted tributory connection of Western culture to a primal Butoh creator that for a moment might venture toward some perfunctory requirement of kind acknowledgment, but the connection here has a far more terrifying implication, for in finding a Western equivalent to the Butoh nexus, one must go to the horrors of World War II and its own cataclysmic aftershock, just as classic Butoh captured and ingrained in its own residual consciousness in the rubble of Japan.

Now, what may have seemed a neat, ingenious idea to honor a Japanese master with a celebrated historical Western work, instead will reawaken terrible repercussions in this percussive orchestral eruption. The pigs’ heads, which might be a wry commentary on orchestral audiences today, become more frightening, in the context of another era, wrenched into an awareness that indeed, an audience with darker motives and intentions would engender the horrors that would ensue.

And it is into this void that this specific artist, with her striking, lean monumentality, conveys by her presence and being the inescapable equivalent of the European disjunction during and after World War II, confronting us, as a child of France with the witness of her personal heritage that could trigger its own ghost field, inescapable as it is, haunting the sonic landscape later with the strains of a French popular song of another era that wafts in during the debacle. Here, in the place of this Festival performance, we might more quickly recognize all this now, with the recently reawakened residual immediacy in American consciousness during the recent commemoration of D-Day and the  further reawakening to the horrors of the mayhem that ensued from the  fateful waverings  away from a culture of highest resilience and moral heroism that Beethoven himself expressed in the 9th Symphony and “Fidelio,” a heroism  and idealism that was discarded in favor of darker purposes and explorations that ravaged Europe in the War.

Aptly here, the music chosen is the “5th  Symphony,” with its insistent intensive chords that are signature,  but soon the luxuriant orchestral gathering will merge ominously with sirens and sounds of the overflight of bombers, and in the presence of our hearing it all will break down and fragment with the corresponding after-awareness that we  have become witness with our eyes and ears to a larger cosmic break down, that shattered  the unifying cultural expressions in a landscape that  now includes the detritus of these places that were temples of moral and idealistic coalescence that are now lost as the pigs had taken residence.

It is quite an extraordinary and ultimately astounding correspondence to bridge the Far Eastern devastation from which Butoh emerged, with the intensively experienced equivalent of the European Battle Theater that, in core areas, was equally decimated in physical and cultural fragmentation.

In this work, this performer almost  demonically ghost driven, embodying the forces of collective and self cultural annihilation, then becomes compelled to witness the forces she has unleashed and  then takes it all on and in with a smoldering intensity of residual horror, stepping back from the abyss and the terror that resides there (perhaps as a life-affirming, retaining in body, residual hope, emptying of exorcised demons), displaying a courageous, willful human stamina to maintain, preserve and witness, holding only the baton that is light to lead us through an enveloping darkness . . .

That this work should appear in festival here, brings a decided cautionary note (refined down from a symphony of notes, of course) of a witness that we should continue without forgetfulness, ultimately in direct connection to this work’s form and content that challenge  and ultimately unsettle us existentially in this small urban outpost surrounded by ancient mountains.





Vangeline Theater- Yi Chun Wu






9th Annual Asheville Butoh Festival

Legacy Butoh, in partnership with the Asheville Contemporary Dance Theatre, will present the 9th Annual Asheville Butoh Festival on Thursday, September 18 through Monday, September 22 at the BeBe Theatre in downtown Asheville.
The Festival, under the artistic direction of Julie Becton Gillum, will feature internationally renowned butoh choreographer and dancer Vangeline, along with solo works by Asheville dancers Jenni Cockrell, Susan Collard, Amy Hamilton, Megan Ransmeir, and Julia Taylor. Ticketed performances and workshops open to dancers of all skill levels will be offered.

“We’re so fortunate to have Vangeline as the featured artist in the Asheville Butoh Festival this year,” said Julie Gillum. “Vangeline believes that Butoh can be a vehicle for collective and individual transformation in the 21st century, and I’m eager for her to share her artistic vision, her extraordinary choreographic skills, and her mesmerizing performances, with Asheville dancers and audiences.”

The unique art of butoh originated in post-World War II Japan as a reaction to the loss of identity caused by the westernization of Japanese culture, as well as a realization that ancient Japanese performing traditions no longer spoke to a contemporary audience. One of the major developments in contemporary dance in the latter half of the 20th century, butoh combines dance, theater, improvisation and influences of Japanese traditional performing arts to create a unique performing art form that is both controversial and universal in its expression.


Photography by Michael Blase

Photography by Michael Blase

3 WORKSHOP DISCOUNT – $75 – If you sign up for all 3 workshops by September 15!

9th Annual Asheville Butoh Festival Schedule of Events:

***All events take place at the BeBe theatre, 20 commerce street, Asheville
Thursday, September 18
$17 in advance; $20 at the door; Senior $12, Student $10


Friday, September 19
$17 in advance; $20 at the door; Senior $12, Student $10


Saturday, September 20
11 AM – 2 PM Butoh Workshop with Vangeline

BeBe Theatre, 20 Commerce Street, Asheville
$17 in advance; $20 at the door; Senior $12, Student $10


Sunday, September 21
11 AM – 2 PM Butoh Workshop with Vangeline
BeBe Theatre, 20 Commerce Street, Asheville, $30

BeBe Theatre, 20 Commerce Street, Asheville
$17 in advance; $20 at the door; Senior $12, Student $10


Monday, September 22
6 – 9 PM Butoh Workshop with Vangeline
BeBe Theatre, 20 Commerce Street, Asheville, $30


Advance and door tickets for all Festival performances and workshops may be purchased in person at the BeBe Theatre, located at 20 Commerce Street in downtown Asheville, or by calling the box office at 828-254-2621.

For updated information on the Festival schedule and artists, visit For ticket information and box office hours, visit or call 828-254-2621.


Photography by Michael Blase

Photography by Michael Blase

Butoh Dance Workshop with Vangeline

“Butoh can lead us back to our rebellions, our private wars, our wounded selves, and through this process brings what is hidden into the light. “The process is deeply healing and transformative. Shedding various masks and layers of conditioning leads to more honesty. When we are stripped of our defenses, we can offer our best. We become capable of intimacy and humanity.” ~Vangeline

This Butoh workshop creates a supportive environment to start an individual and collective process of investigation through creative movement. Participants start a spiritual and energetic journey to express, heal and transform hidden aspects of themselves. The work incorporates Japanese Butoh techniques, guided imagery, bio-energetics, core energetics, creative movement, improvisation, release techniques, elements of Noguchi gymnastics. This unique training is an invaluable tool for dancers, actors, adult beginners, encouraging participants to open up and expand physically and energetically.

*All levels and complete beginners are welcome.


Vangeline - "Downrise" photography by Michael Blase

Vangeline – “Downrise”
photography by Michael Blase

Featured Artist: Vangeline

After 15 sold out shows at the Avignon Festival in July 2014, Vangeline is delighted to perform her solo FIFTH OF BEETHOVEN-Admiring Tatsumi Hijikata” in Asheville.

Beethoven meets Butoh as Vangeline’s performance conjures up the ghosts of two passionate giants who left us with an immeasurable legacy.

Tatsumi Hijikata’s costume worn for his last public solo performance in 1968 (is inspiration for Vangeline’s costume created by New York designer Todd Thomas (Katie Perry Prismatic Tour).


[photography by Michael Blase

[photography by Michael Blase

“Fifth of Beethoven – Admiring Tatsumi Hijikata”




Vangeline is a teacher, dancer, and choreographer specializing in the Japanese postwar avant-garde movement form Butoh. She is the Artistic Director of the Vangeline Theater (NYC), a dance company firmly rooted in the tradition of Japanese Butoh while carrying it into the 21st century. She was born in Bourgogne, France and moved to New York in 1993.

Vangeline’s choreographic work spans performance on stage and in film and has been performed throughout the US for the past 10 years. Her work has been heralded in publications such as the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and LA Weekly to name a few. Time OUT Chicago named Vangeline’s, “one of the best Dance Visits of 2011.”

Since its inception in 2002, the Vangeline Theater has fused the post-apocalyptic vision of Butoh with the aesthetics of 21st century film noir. The Company’s unique style, which might be described as “butoh meets film noir,” is informed by Vangeline’s extensive training with Butoh Masters, including Tetsuro Fukuhara, Yoshito Ohno, Yumiko Yoshioka, Diego Pinon and Katsura Kan, as well as performing Butoh solo on stage and film.

Vangeline’s critically acclaimed choreographed works have been presented in New York at Joyce SoHo, White Wave, the New Museum, Dance Theater Workshop, PS122 Performance Space, and Abrons Arts Center. She was the recipient of a six-month artist residency at PS122 Performance Space (“New, New Stuff”); since 2006 she has received prestigious awards from the Puffin Foundation, the Japan Foundation, the New York Department of Cultural Affairs, the New York Foundation for the Arts, the Asian American Arts Alliance, Brooklyn Arts Council, and the Robert Friedman Foundation.

She is the founder of the 7-year running, award-winning program “The Dream a Dream Project”, which brings Butoh dance to incarcerated men and women at correctional facilities across New York City.

Also active in film and theatre, Vangeline performed the critically acclaimed role of the ghost of Elizabeth Short (the “Black Dahlia”) in the 2011 Los Angeles production of ‘The Chanteuse and the Devil’s Muse.’ directed by David J (Bauhaus). The Los Angeles press unanimously praised her Butoh performance. THEATER IN LA selected her performance as one of the best 2011 performances in Los Angeles.

Recent film projects include a starring role alongside actors James Franco and Winona Ryder in the feature film by director Jay Anania, ‘The Letter (2012-Lionsgate). Vangeline is currently in collaboration with the Marina Abromovic Institute and Neuroscientist Suzanne Dikker, exploring the intersection of Butoh and Neuroscience.


photography by Kosuke Mori

Artistic Director: Julie Becton Gillum

photography by Kosuke Mori

@vangelinebutoh on twitter

Butoh “POWERHOUSE” Vanessa Skantz Returns to Asheville for Workshop /Performance

Vanessa Skantz

Vanessa Skantz

July 17, 2014
Press Contact: Sara Baird
PH: (646) 522-2518

Asheville dance companies Anemone Dance Theater and Legacy Butoh will collaborate to host acclaimed Butoh artist and choreographer Vanessa Skantze for an artist residency in Asheville the week of August 5-12.

Highlights of the residency include:

“Listening to the Bones: The Body as Instrument and Offering”
a movement workshop and performance open to the public

When: Saturday, August 9, 2:00 – 5:00 pm
Where: Bebe Theater
20 Commerce Street
Asheville, NC 28801
Description: Creating a space of curiosity and trust while fostering intense physical/mental focus, the workshop will facilitate awareness of the concurrent structural and energetic alignment of the body; explore limits of flexibility and strength, speed and stillness, instability and ground; work in pairs to develop listening beyond the skin; and invoke imagery to be absorbed into the body–creating the offering of Butoh dance. Follow the workshop, a studio performance will feature workshop participants performing the newly created dance piece as well as Vanessa Skantze performing a solo set.

For more information or to register, email Sara Baird at or call (646)522-2518. Suggested donation is $30.

“Radiant Poison”
During her residency, Vanessa Skantze will work with professional dancers to choreograph Radiant Poison, a dance that journeys through four gardens: origins, illusion, creation, and dissolution. Radiant Poison will premiere October 25 and 26 at Grove Park in Asheville as part of UWABE – Art in the Park, a free outdoor dance series funded in part by the Asheville Area Arts Council with support from Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center.

Vanessa Skantze, a Butoh artist and teacher of yoga and dance, has performed in the U.S. and Europe for more than 20 years and is now based in Seattle. She co-founded the New Orleans sound/movement ensemble Death Posture and collaborates with renowned musicians such as Jarboe and percussionist Tatsuya Nakatani. Skantze has trained and performed with Jinen Butoh founder Atsushi Takenouchi, has created numerous ensemble works and solo pieces under the name Danse Perdue, and taught as part of Lydia Lunch’s Post-Catastrophe Collaborative.

Anemone Dance Theater, under the artistic direction of Sara Baird, is influenced by the philosophy of Japanese Butoh Dance – a theatrical poetry of opposites, absurdities and unanticipated beauty. In addition to directing her own company, Baird has performed with the Butoh Rockettes directed by Celeste Hastings, Poppo & Gogo Boys, Richard Move for the Guggenheim Museum, VH1, and the Cannes Film Festival, and has toured the U.S., South America, and Europe. In 2007, Baird was chosen by master Akira Kasai to perform at The Japan Society in NYC for his commission, Butoh America.

Legacy Butoh was founded in 2005 by Julie Becton Gillum, an icon of the Asheville dance community who previously founded three modern dance companies. Gillum has been creating, performing, and teaching dance in the US, France, Cuba and Mexico for over 40 years. Since 1998, she has created and presented major Butoh pieces at a variety of venues in New York, Chicago, San Francisco and Mexico, along with producing the annual Asheville Butoh Festival. In 2009, she was awarded the prestigious Choreography Fellowship by the North Carolina Arts Council, which enabled her to travel to Japan to study with Butoh masters.

Sara Baird, Artistic Director of Anemone Dance Theater, and Julie Becton Gillum, Artistic Director of Legacy Butoh, are frequent collaborators, having choreographed and performed together at the Asheville Fringe Festival, as part of NC Stage’s Catalyst Series, at Black Mountain College Museum + Art Center’s Re-Happening, and at many Asheville street festivals.

8th Asheville Butoh Festival WORKSHOP INFORMATION

Jenni Cockrell


BeBe Theatre, 20 Commerce Street

This years festival will offer four exciting workshops for you to really get yourself satiated with the expressive art of butoh. Each workshop is designed for all levels of experience so spring into action and bring butoh into your body and life.


WHEN: Friday April 26, 10 AM-1PM

TAUGHT BY: Maureen “momo” Freehill


WHEN: Saturday April 27, 12 PM – 3 PM

TITLE: “One Drop”

TAUGHT BY: Keiko Hashimoto

DESCRIPTION: This class will explore the following questions:

How can we connect the unchanging and the ever-changing in our life?                            How can we bring one drop of life to the big river?

Through the human body, using exercises in space like walking, standing, levels, qualities of strength and delicacy, we will discover “space flower” or “stone back”. This workshop will connect to Friday’s workshop with momo, in that both these teachers’ primary mentor was butoh c0-founder Kazuo Ohno.


WHEN: Sunday April 28, 12 – 3 PM

TAUGHT BY: Florence Poulain and Bob Lyness

TITLE: “Collective Consciousness at Play”

DESCRIPTION: In the tradition of butoh master Diego Pinon, this workshop will focus on exploring states of mind and attitudes, ranging from the subtle to the grotesque, through individual and interactive explorations. In this process of self-discovery we will connect with one another,  cultivating a supportive energetic exchange.


TITLE: “Dance and the Archetypal Symbol: An Improvisational Butoh Workshop”

DESCRIPTION: This improvisational, Butoh inspired class will explore the question “How does the soul experience image and archetype?”  Through Butoh exercises and improvisation, we will delve into symbols and images, exploring them as vital seeds for dance, performance and the human experience.

TAUGHT BY: Jenni Cockrell

WHEN: Monday April 29, 6 – 9 PM

“Butoh In Seattle” a review of 30 /30 Concert, written by Amontaine Aurore

photo by Briana Jones

Critic Mark Holborn has written that Butoh is defined by its very evasion of definition. A dance art form that started and developed in Japan after World War II, allegedly in response to the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Butoh has spread to the United States and overseas, and continues to defy simple categorization. Unlike Hip Hop that also began as an underground movement but got quickly co-opted by corporate interest Concerts and molded for mass consumption, Butoh has remained true to its subversive roots. I recently witnessed what was described as a ‘Butoh-inspired’ performance in Seattle where Butoh has captured a following among a dedicated group of artists that have been evolving the form since the 90s. The production entitled 30/30 Concert was a two-day long performance that presented the work of four choreographers: Sheri Brown, Helen Thorsen, Diana Garcia-Snyder and Joan Laage, and featured a stellar lineup of Butoh dancers in and around the Seattle area. The slow, controlled movements and white-faced makeup that characterizes the form was still in use. Yet, I noted that these performances were ‘not your mother’s Butoh.’ Employing pioneering multimedia installations and fusing the form with modern dance sensibilities, there seemed a marked departure, an evolution from what had previously gone before. However, the iconoclastic underbelly remained, as well as the venturing into dangerous, uncharted territory where few dance forms would dare to tread. This, I suspect, is due at least in part by the organic structure and philosophical underpinnings of the form. Rather than mimicking a system of already devised steps, jumps, leaps and turns, Butoh is derived from the body discovering movement. As one enters into the discovery, bodies, minds, perceptions expand, and so necessarily, do the possibilities. It was precisely these possibilities, morphing into incredibility, which made the performances so thrilling.

Take for instance the piece entitled, Divided by Zero, choreographed by Sheri Brown, who also danced in it, along with collaborators, Angela Martinelli, Kaoru Okumura, Alisa Popova, Douglas Ridings and Alan Sutherland. The work poses the premise, “What happens when mathematical impossibility becomes bodily possibility? When humans import the infinite into their finite beings, putting the ungraspable on display in their bodies? Brown, who is a math teacher, and her dance collaborators, created an eclectic work that commingled the trademark Butoh slow adagio movements with gongs, spoken words, and da Vinciesque perfected anatomical poses. In developing the piece, Brown was interested in the discovery of how dance can be considered a valid and integral investigation into mathematical/cultural frontiers. She sites mathematical breakthroughs worked out first on paper that led to engineering know-how in building the space shuttle and traveling to the moon. What mathematical suppositions and technological triumphs can be derived from dance when its thrust is perpetual discovery? Fastidious control and precision movement, some of which brought to mind equations and geometric calculations being carved through space, shattered my notions of what the body can and cannot do. Brown, a petite woman, at one point during the performance carried a grown man across her back.

Breaking up the live performances, was the amazing short film, Scrap Life, choreographed by SU-EN from Sweden and featuring performers from the SU-EN Butoh Company. Filmed in a junkyard, dancers emerge from the rubbish, elegantly dressed, arms and hands moving in sublime and sacred phraseology. The junkyard setting seems pertinent, as Butoh is famous for being performed in unfathomable spaces, such as caves, or where life is absurd, dramatic or extreme.

Although the Seattle Butoh community has not received as much press in Seattle as some other art forms, it was interesting to note the full house and enthusiastic reactions of their audience, as they have garnered a most remarkable following. What’s most palpable in this teeming and blossoming milieu is the driven devotion of the artists themselves that are not only dancing the form, but living it fiercely.

photo by Briana Jones

30/30 Concert was performed on June 22 and 23rd at Velocity Dance Center in Seattle, and was produced by DAIPANbutoh Collective, Last Leg and Danse Perdue.


What: Asheville Butoh Festival presents an evening of butoh inspired films by video artists: Lucas Baumann, Peter Brezny, Rainer Doost, and Megan Ransmeier.

When: June 13, 2012 @ 6:00 PM

Where: Black Mountain College Museum, 56 Broadway, Asheville

Cost: $5

Here is the line-up.



-Directed by Megan Ransmeier and Lucas Baumann

-Photography and Editing by Lucas Baumann

-Performance by Julia Taylor, Mariana Templin, Amelia Burns, and Megan Ransmeier.

Shot in and around Lake Eden, site of the former Black Mountain College, this film presents emotionally evocative images of contemplative movement, influenced by the local landscape and individual narratives. Characters emerge and recede within an abstract world of relation, while housed in sculptural costume and situation.


Excerpts from the performances of Diego Pinon, Yukio Suzuki, and Yukio Waruri

-Filmed and edited by Peter Brezny


Pre-release excerpts from the documentary film

a collaboration between Peter Brezny and Julie Becton Gillum

(currently in production)

GHOSTS OF THE SOUTH” An Affrilachian Butoh Homage

Filmed and edited by Rainer Doost, Zamani Productions

Directed by Julie Becton Gillum in collaboration with Valeria Watson-Doost

The 18 minute film honors and calls forth the Ghosts of the Asheville River Arts District, a part of town in which blacks thrived and from which they were displaced.Fo otage is derived from a live performance at the fall 2011 opening of Valeria Watson-Doost’s art exhibit entitled “NiceNasty.” The exhibit and performance addressed the continuing inhumanity we visit on each other through war, torture and racism.

The choreographers and lead performers Valeria Watson-Doost (a black woman) and Julie Becton Gillium (a white women) both have deep historic roots in Western North Carolina. In this profoundly personal performance the two dancers take us from deep racial dissonance to possible redemption.

It is the same ray of hope that makes Valeria Watson-Doost’s art not only bearable, but beautiful.


5 minutes – 2012

-Photography by Megan Ransmeier

-Performance and Editing by Lucas Baumann

A short picture of human grace, curiosity and persistence in the forest.