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Rhythm of life & darkness

Terrifying, yet hypnotic. French artiste Syv Bruzeau’s performance of the Japanese Butoh dance kept the audience at Studio21 glued to their seats for 40 minutes on Friday.

The performance, a part of the third edition of the annual Arshinagar festival, began with Syv stepping onto the performance space in a white dress and headgear, her face partially smeared with white paint and a rope hanging noose-like around her neck.

The movements were slow, almost robotic, carefully choreographed to a background score that was trance-like at times.

Heavy in grotesque imagery, the Butoh dance form was born in Japan in 1959 as a reaction to World War II. The term Butoh means “dance of darkness”.

Syv discovered Butoh when she went to Japan to explore Asia and its culture and never left this part of the world. An avid traveller, she has also spent time in Dharamsala, where she took lessons in Butoh.

“The theme centred around my experience as a traveller. My reaction to the places I visited, which were not always pleasant,” said Syv about her performance. “I felt lost at times and also pained at seeing the ravages around me.”

Syv had spent two months conceptualising before she put up her first solo act in the city. The performance included several on-the-spot improvisations too. “Sometimes I take months to turn an idea into dance and at other times I have quick brainwaves,” she said.

Her props included sand, pebbles, dust, earthen pots and a delicate white dress hanging in the background.

The rhythm of Syv’s performance and her facial expressions were disturbing at times as she communicated a story of travels and travails.

So intense was the performance that it took Syv a while to come back to the present after the show. “I am so happy to perform before you,” she smiled, waking the audience up from a spell.

Syv is performing and conducting a workshop at Tepantar theatre village in Santiniketan over the weekend.

The Singapore resident has practised other movement-based and awareness techniques too. A believer in the self-healing and self-discovering effects of dance, Syv has come up with her own method, Oneness Flow.