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Dozens of water-filled plastic pouches and a solitary, naked light bulb dangle from the ceiling of this intimate gallery, reconfigured as a circular performance space. The floor is covered in butcher paper, and tire walls, shrouded in shades of earth-toned muslin, seem to embrace the audience. In this womblike ambience, a unique life force takes shape. Los Angeles-based butoh master Oguri, like a flower blooming in time-lapse photography, rises slowly from a mound of glistening white sea salt to investigate and share secrets of the universe.

This 45-minute provocative solo is from the Japanese dancer/choreographer's "Height of Sky: A Report From the Desert." The culmination of a four-year collaborative project that included workshops, a documentary, installations, photography, and performances, this is one of about 50 dances Oguri created for the endeavor. Exploring dance as a response to the harsh beauty of Joshua Tree National Park, the artist channeled his feelings of connectedness to the earth.

The shaved-headed Oguri, clad in cotton drawstring pajamas, casts shadows as he crouches, burying his bare feet in the salt before getting up on one knee. There he encounters the light bulb--a moon, the sun, an idea, perhaps? On Oguri's watch, life's minutiae become the infinite: He gently cradles a water-filled pouch to his chest, this beating heart an echo of a body in thrall. The exotic landscape of salt seems to have healing powers as the performer stretches out before shedding his garb in an adagio of trust.

Now wearing only a thong, Oguri is exposed, vulnerable. He rises, salt shards clinging to his wiry body, his face mouthing a silent scream as he bobs his head, eyes closed. A symphony of sounds, from guttural to scatlike gibberish, emerges from his lips as his arms reach skyward. In an accelerated movement cadenza, he bounces up and down, playing with his fingers and pinching his own flesh.

Throughout the dance, percussionist Jean Copeland performs on Tibetan bowls, making gonglike sounds with small mallets and creating a mystical aural backdrop as she moves unseen around the outside of the inuslin circle. Until, that is, the music of Otis Redding bursts forth, and Oguri, now the clown, surrenders to a seismic butoh boogie woogie.

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Author:Looseleaf, Victoria
Publication:Dance Magazine
Article Type:Dance Review
Date:Jan 1, 2005
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