Porous with KAI-EN

Butoh dancer and choreographer KAI-EN has been a resident in our studio with several projects during the years. The latest work is the project “Porous” that will be performed at Fylkingen this week 6th-8th of December. As the title reveals, Porous evolves around porosity as a state of transformation. We met with KAI-EN to get to know more about the references, decay as a transformative power, and how the butoh body relates to the surrounding world.

Porous is described to be somewhere in-between a ritual and a dance performance. How have you been working with the ritual as concept and was there any specific type of ritual that inspired this project?

– I am inspired by traditional trance rituals from various regions. In the performance we borrow the structure from these kind of processes; a quality of withdrawal, repetition and small shifts towards a changed reality. These concrete functions of repetition are not emphasized in the music or the dance though, they are rather our inspiration in quality and attitude, as references. For me ritual is about relating to the world as larger than my individual needs and greed. It is about being absorbed by the world as a body, but also to cut it up and to turn body and world inside out to find a deeper connection between them. Decay also has its place in this process as transformative power. Our ritual celebrates this idea of bodies within bodies.

Photo: Björn-Ola Lind

Decay and disintegration as transformative processes – how is that taking place in the work and how are you relating to that theme in terms of bodily practice? For example decay as a possible source of movement and decay as an ongoing bodily experience in relation to life and aging.

– As a butoh dancer and choreographer I am using the organic or mineral world as my material for the dance; matter in a constant process of becoming. I use my body´s internal knowledge and experience of matter, as being a body, and I expand and “purify” it into choreography. The body, as you put it in your question, is already connected to these processes as part of life, as well as to other beings. In this performance I use images of cadavers, rotten meat, mold and so on.

I am always returning to this quality of being on the border between integrity and disintegration, it is in this tension field where things starts to come alive, often in uncontrollable ways. It is very much connected to the idea of repetition and withdrawal as generative, but now through a material process; that of decay. Decay is multiplying dimensions in a qualitative sense, it is not a linear process like fragmentation.

Porous is a solo-piece and as I understand it your previous projects that has been developed here in residency are also solo-work. What are your thoughts on collaborative work and what are the benefits in your process when working solo?

Photo: Björn-Ola Lind

– Porous is a solo dance piece, but there are other artists involved in the performance. Composer Lars Åkerlund made the sound and visual artist Björn-Ola Lind and I together made the moving images. Maria Ros Palmklint is the light designer.
I do different kind of projects, sometimes collaborations with shared initiative, sometimes like this on my initiative and idea. I think it is important that the butoh dance is in the center of the work in some projects. That requires that I lead the process, also when working with other artists, because I have the knowledge of the dance. It requires a longer process; to learn from each other. Since I am trained in a specific lineage of butoh I would have to train dancers if I want other dancers to take part in the work. With that said, it is not a fixed method but a continuous research. I am open to meet dancers from other fields though, or to do different kinds of collaborations with other artists, in specific projects.

You are a trained butoh dancer, a practice that evolves around bodily experience and investigating our existence in the world by pushing both the body and the consciousness towards becoming. When working with butoh as a point of departure or method, how important is the space around you and how are different rooms affecting your process? Out of curiosity, are there any specific factors in our studio that has affected your work?

– The space is very important because the butoh body is relating to its surrounding space through heightened sensitivity. As a butoh dancer I need to cut off the social communicative part of life to go deeper into the processes of body materials. That makes it sometimes difficult to be surrounded by city life dominated by human interaction and negotiations. But it is not that butoh requires a special atmosphere to be performed, it could be anywhere depending on the work, preferably where there is some kind of friction. But for me personally I need a concentrated situation when rehearsing. I think c.off is an inspiring working space, especially when the light enters, always shifting.

Porous will be performed at Fylkingen 6-8 of December. How will you proceed after that? Do you have any further plans for the piece or will you move on to another project?

– I wish I can perform Porous again and in other places, but nothing is decided yet. I will perform in SU-EN Butoh Company´s new ensemble piece, IKI, at Dansens Hus in April. I have also plans for other projects, but they are still too undefined to talk about.

Thank you KAI-EN!

Photo: Björn-Ola Lind


Visit the facebook event for more info on the upcoming performance.

Read more about the work of KAI-EN here.