In our mashup-obsessed era, it’s hard to rise above the noise of Frankenstein-like creations like Pulpy Days (a combination of the noirish Tarantino movie Pulp Fiction and the feel-good Happy Days TV series) or ALF channeling Eminem. But the modish choreographer Trajal Harrell has created a mashup that pretty much tops this stuff with his latest dance theater work.
In The Ghost of Montpellier Meets the Samurai, Harrell smooshes together the aesthetics and careers of a pair of iconoclastic performance artists, both of them incredibly influential yet mostly obscure to American audiences: venerable butoh dance pioneer Tatsumi Hijikata and experimental French choreographer Dominique Bagouet.
Hijikata created the out-there performance artform known as butoh in the west in the 1960s with Ohno Kazuo. A staple of Japanese culture today, butoh pushes the human body to extremes through grotesque imagery and taboo themes. Oh, and butoh artists look even more freakish to unattuned audiences because they traditionally cover their bodies entirely in white makeup and move painfully slowly.
Bagouet founded the Centre Choreographique Languedoc- Roussillon in Montpellier in 1980. There, he produced important dance pieces like Insaisies and Fantasia Semplice, which placed extreme physical demands on his dancers. He died very young, at 41, of AIDS.