Today’s show in the recently restarted UCSB Arts & Lectures series will be a first-ever performance in the United States, as renowned Japanese Butoh dancing company Sankai Juku takes the stage of the Granada Theatre for the American debut of “Meguri: Teaming Sea, Tranquil Land.” With its ambient music, an all-male troupe made up and dressed in white, and body movement that choreographer and artistic director Ushio Amagatsu described as “a dialogue with gravity,” “Meguri” will bring to life what the Sankai Juku founder sees as a thematic thread running throughout his entire body of work.
“This piece ‘Meguri’ is about time and space of life including the life of a human being, which is nurtured by the earth. It is related to my simple and constant theme: universality beyond cultural differences,” Mr. Amagatsu said.
He added that this theme of universality beyond cultural differences is almost always present in his creations and gets reinforced by his experience touring Sankai Juku’s productions around the world. Thus far, with Sankai Juku Mr. Amagatsu has toured in 48 countries and since “Meguri” had its premiere in 2015, the show has been performed in 20 cities in seven countries.
When asked about his creative process, the artistic director said that he takes about two years to take notes on his next project once the one at hand finishes. During the note taking process, Mr. Amagatsu drops unnecessary elements as needed before finally getting to work on creating his next show. His original inspiration for “Meguri” came from a book about biohistory that he was reading a few years before the show premiered. The relationship between land and sea referenced in the show’s subtitle is especially influenced by his formative years.
“As I was born and grew up by the sea, I was always interested in descriptions about the sea and the boundary between the land and the sea,” he said.
Mr. Amagatsu’s introduction to Butoh came in the early 1970s, a time in which Japan was caught in a cultural climate of “posing big questions” on society and art. As he recalled, many Japanese artists at the time adopted a style of “creating work from chaos” and he eagerly wanted to be creative in a similar way. One day, he came across the work of Tatsumi Hijikata, one of the first-generation artists in Butoh, a form of dancing that was born in Japan after World War II. This made him choose Butoh as his artform, a decision he believes was just as much his as that of “the historical background of that era.”
In 1975, he founded Sankai Juku, which started as a year-long workshop. Though the workshop began with more than 30 men and women, by the end of the year only three male dancers remained. These three have been permanent fixtures in the company’s five-man lineup that has persisted for 20 years.
While “Meguri” has its stateside premiere today, Sankai Juku is gearing up to tour its latest piece “ARC,” which premiered in March in Kikayushu City, Japan, and had its European premiere in May at the Cheatre des Champs-Elyees in Paris, France.Sankai Juku’s performance at the Granada Theatre begins at 8:00 p.m. today. Tickets for the performance can be purchased online at www.artsandlectures.ucsb.edu and cost between $41 and $66 for the general public. UCSB students with current student IDs can get tickets for $20. The Granada Theatre is located at 1214 State St.