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SF Chronicle: 'Suicide Barrier': Ledoh's new Butoh work at ODC

'Suicide Barrier': Ledoh's new Butoh work at ODC
Nirmala Nataraj, Special to The Chronicle
Thursday, June 2, 2011

Butoh conjures images of a slow, leisurely procession through controlled gestures that are simultaneously familiar and idiosyncratic. It is a dance that takes place in the spaces between the visceral and the ideological, and award-winning choreographer Ledoh explores such liminal spaces.

Ledoh's new work, "Suicide Barrier: Secure in Our Illusion" is a multimedia exploration that looks at the gaps between the body, technology and our perceptions of reality. In collaboration with Circuit Network and video artist Perry Hallinan, Ledoh's work can be seen as "a reflection on my life and environment. Sometimes it's personal, sometimes it's about the people around me and what I've observed."

The title of the performance was derived when Ledoh saw an article about the suicide barriers on Golden Gate Bridge about three years ago. "The title is more steeped in the idea of being 'secure in our illusion,' " Ledoh says. Perceptions of subjectivity are also integral to the work. "For me, the project became about seeing this body as mine, as an I, which is still illusory. When spirituality and science come together, we are basically just photons - then you slow that down, and it's just emptiness."

The piece offers subtle meditations on technology and how it serves to simultaneously connect us and alienate us from each other. "Technology should try to help us connect with each other, but the more we try, the more disconnected we become," says Ledoh, who was born in Burma but trained in Japan. While the piece utilizes Hallinan's video artistry to amplify the impact of the live performance, Ledoh acknowledges that the "live performance, in some ways, is taking place in a dead space. People don't have the attention span that they were once used to, as we are now conditioned to multitask."

Ledoh's previous pieces have been intentional contemplations on nature and the environment, as well as the interconnection between different species. "Suicide Barrier" can be viewed as an attempt to bridge the gap between nature and technology. In many respects, he says, "we fail to connect with the food we eat or the land we live on. At the same time, the hustle and bustle of an urban setting can be what drives us ... and there is a time and place for all of it."

While Ledoh's performance projects might raise conflicting dialogue about the place of Butoh in the contemporary arts, he asserts that he isn't trying to define Butoh. "Butoh is still alive and gaining traction in the diaspora," he says. "I don't see it as a style. I see it as a living thing, and I am utilizing whatever I can to let that essence stay alive and draw new audiences in."

At the same time, Ledoh harks back to the exploration of absurdity that is such an integral part of Butoh. Despite the seeming seriousness of the show, he says, "It's important to bring a little humor to the work. If we can't laugh at ourselves, we're dead as a species. Humor, and the humility that comes from it, is our saving grace."

8 p.m. Fri.-Sat., 7 p.m. Sun. $15-$18. ODC Theater, 3153 17th St., S.F. (415) 863-9834. www.odcdance.org.

E-mail comments to 96hours@sfchronicle.com.

http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/06/02/NSO81JK8UM.DTL

This article appeared on page G - 10 of the San Francisco Chronicle

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