A dance of life, death and transformation

Metamorphosis Butoh – a constant state of transformation.| Photo by Nelson Coreas

pataSola Dance, a local dance company, will be performing Metamorphosis Butoh at the Shadbolt Centre from Feb. 21 to Feb. 24. Choreographed by Gustavo Collini in collaboration with pataSola Dance co-founders Eduardo Meneses and Salomé Nieto, the piece derives its name from the Japanese genre of dance, butoh, as well as the subject the performance’s main themes: rebirth, death and the struggle of life itself.

Before meeting one another, Salomé Nieto and Eduardo Meneses both had extensive backgrounds in the performing arts. For the last few decades, Colombia-born Meneses’ light design has been seen in live performances from the Colombian National Ballet Company and Afro-Cuban Dimensions, as well as in various film mediums. Meanwhile, Nieto has performed internationally in Argentina, Mexico, Nicaragua and Thailand with Kokoro Dance and Donna Redlick Dance, with experience in both group and solo performance.

Butoh, life and dance

Originally from Mexico, Nieto moved to Canada in 1992. Early on in her dance career, she became familiar with Japanese butoh.

“I moved to Canada in 1992 where I met Baraba Bourget and Jay Hirabayashi. I began training with them and danced prominently in their company, [Kokoro Dance], for over a decade. They introduced me to butoh, and I have dedicated the past 25 years to studying and exploring this dance genre,” says Nieto.

Butoh is often very difficult to pin down, as there isn’t any easily defined basis in style compared to other forms of dance, perhaps in part due to it being a relatively newer style of dance, having been founded in the late 1950’s. Despite this, butoh is unmistakable when witnessed, as the performers, traditionally covered in white body makeup, perform with very slow, controlled, careful movements.

Butoh’s lack of definition can lend itself to exploring new directions and themes, as the lethargic, deliberate motion encourages a kind of meditation. It’s this kind of reflection, on life, death, and rebirth that bring to life the central themes of Metamorphosis Butoh that Meneses and Nieto seek to explore through dance.

“The name of this piece speaks of one of the points of departure in Butoh. We are in a constant state of transformation. We die many times to be reborn again, to be renewed. There is beauty in death. There is beauty in the struggle,” says Nieto.

Creative chemistry

Butoh dancer Salomé Nieto.| Photo by Nelson Coreas

It was in the process of creating and producing her first solo work that brought Nieto in contact with Meneses.

“In 2011, I started my research for the work, Camino al Tepeyac,” says Nieto. “When the work was accepted to premiere at the Vancouver International Dance Festival in 2013, Eduardo came into the studio to design the lighting for what, at that time, was a 15-minute first inception of the work.”

The two found creative chemistry, and went on to found pataSola Dance later in 2013, which has since put on Camino al Tepeyac, among other projects. While Nieto performs and Meneses works as lighting design, the duo collaborates in the process of bringing original concepts to the stage, from inception to performance.

“Eduardo and I are co-creators or collaborators: me as a choreographer and performer and him as lighting and set designer. We both work conceptually to develop the vision of the work, and co-create in the studio along with any other guest artists,” says Nieto.

But Nieto and Meneses hardly work alone. It’s in their stated mandate to work with other artists and creators, such as Metamorphosis Butoh choreographer Gustavo Collini, to bring together Latin-American artists and artists of other ethnic backgrounds in the spirit of artistic collaboration and exploring shared values.

“Eduardo and I felt it important to involve artists from other ethnicities to create work with a universal voice. Through them we are able to hear the voices of other cultures, other views of the world,” says Nieto. “We are in a time where we need to get back to community. There has been enough divide and separation in the world. We are coming together to add our voices and address issues that matter to all.”


For more information on the event and pataSola Dance, visit www.patasoladance.com.