Arts & Lectures Presents Sankai Juku

Kinetic Tribute to Visceral and Tactile Elements of Life

Program director Celesta Billeci’s deliberate decision to open the season with the globally revered and meditative style of Butoh dance company Sankai Juku, the stage has been set for a soulful introduction into the remarkable breadth of a highly anticipated series. | Credit: MEGURI

This season, the UCSB Arts & Lectures Dance series will once again play host to some of the world’s most esteemed dance makers and productions, from Dance Theatre of Harlem’s historic 50th anniversary tour to the Lyon Opera Ballet’s female choreographers’ showcase. And with program director Celesta Billeci’s deliberate decision to open the season with the globally revered and meditative style of Butoh dance company Sankai Juku, the stage has been set for a soulful introduction into the remarkable breadth of a highly anticipated series.

Developed in 1950s Japan as a revolt against the classical dance styles popular at the time, Butoh is a kinetic tribute to both the visceral and tactile elements of everyday life — a raw expression defying the demure and refined aesthetics saturating Japan’s dance culture. 

Over 50 years later, Sankai Juku’s artistic director, Ushio Amagatsu, has become one of the genre’s most celebrated proponents, introducing the world to a striking and conceptual dance form created by his mentors Tatsumi Hijikata and Kazuo Ohno and once thought to be little more than fringe entertainment.

Just off the river Seine on Paris’s right bank stands a majestic 18th-century theater whose storied walls once debuted Verdi’s Macbeth in 1865, as well as a dazzling catalog of stage siren Sarah Bernhardt’s infamous work. Called the Théâtre de la Ville (City Theater), the space has been Sankai Juku’s creative home since 1981, where Amagatsu and his all-male company of dancers laboriously develop the organic patterns and imagery characteristic of the Butoh method. This synergistic partnership between artist and institution has resulted in a cross-cultural, coproduced work once every two years — much to the delight of Parisians who have been known to queue up along the Quai de Gesvres for hours in hopes of securing tickets.

On Friday, October 4, Santa Barbara dance audiences will be treated to the U.S. debut of one of these coproductions: Meguri: Teeming Sea, Tranquil Land, created in 2015 and combining visual art with meditative dance.

Set against a stunning wall of relief panels that emanate the delicate suspension of fossilized sea lilies, seven dancers will take to the Granada Theatre’s stage in an homage to nature and the cyclical patterns that move us through life. Juxtaposing dramatic gestures with studied movement, Meguri attempts to stir the inner whirrings of our deepest desires, unifying reality and perception in the process. This elegant and arresting work from one of the world’s most fascinating dance companies is not to be missed.


UCSB’s Arts and Lectures presents Sankai Juku on Friday, October 4, at The Granada Theatre (1214 State St.). Call 893-3535 or see artsandlectures.ucsb.edu.

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