Butoh festival brings three big events to PT

Leader News Staff
Posted 7/6/23

Salish Sea Butoh will present the third annual Salish Sea International Butoh Festival in August in Port Townsend.

The event celebrates Japanese Butoh, an avant-garde style of dance-theater that …

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Butoh festival brings three big events to PT


Salish Sea Butoh will present the third annual Salish Sea International Butoh Festival in August in Port Townsend.

The event celebrates Japanese Butoh, an avant-garde style of dance-theater that originated in 1960s Tokyo, and features live performances from Japanese artist Kota Yamazaki from Niigata, Latin-American Butoh pioneer Eugenia Vargas from Mexico City, and Anastazia Louise Aranaga from the San Francisco Bay Area.

Events include an outdoor street performance with live music at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Aug, 15. The piece is directed by Anastazia Louise of the Bad Unkl Sista performance ensemble, and takes place at the Haller Fountain in downtown Port Townsend. This event is free to the public.

A butoh cabaret at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 16, will boast 12 vignette stage performances that combine Butoh aesthetics with cabaret/burlesque at the Zee Tai Building, 918 Water St. Admission is $10.

The main performance takes place at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 19, and includes mainstage performances by all three guest artists. The main performance is at Eaglemount Wine & Cider, 1893 South Jacob Miller Road. Admission for the main performance is $20 general admission and $15 for students.


Eugenia Vargas is a dancer, choreographer, teacher, curator, and artistic researcher from Mexico City.  She is the founder and director of Laboratorio Escénico Danza Teatro Ritual, a performance troupe and artistic venue that has served as an incubator for dance and interdisciplinary projects as well as an artistic residence and formative training space for Butoh in Mexico, from which several generations of artists have emerged or have been influenced.

Vargas is co-founder and director of Cuerpos en Revuelta: Festival Internacional de Danza Butoh, one of the premiere butoh festivals of Latin America. She is also the founder of the Butoh México Archive with which she is currently organizing the ongoing seminar, “Thinking from the body with and against butoh.”

In 2022, Vargas organized “Encrucijada: mujeres en el butoh,” an initiative that brought together artists from Japan, Argentina, Chile, and Mexico.

Vargas has trained and studied with Japanese Butoh pioneers Natsu Nakajima and the late Yukio Waguri. She has co-produced and co-performed numerous choreographic productions with Nakajima and Waguri and with Tadashi Endo and Yuko Kaseki.

For nearly three decades, Vargas has performed in Japan, Mexico, Spain, Colombia, Peru, Chile, and Canada, and she has also performed original works at important international butoh festivals such as the Women Defining Butoh Festival in New York City, the Dance Dance Dance Festival in Yokohama, Japan, and the Festival Internacional de Butoh Chile (FiButoh) in Santiago de Chile. Her work has been recognized in the books “Butoh: Cradling Empty Space” by Vangeline and in “BUTOH AMERICA: Butoh Dance in the United States and Mexico from 1970 to the Early 2000s” by Tanya Calamoneri.

Kota Yamazaki, born and raised in Niigata, Japan, was first introduced to butoh under the teaching of Akira Kasai at Tenshi-kan at the age of 18 after training as a music conductor.

Yamazaki graduated from Bunka Fashion College in Tokyo with a bachelor of arts in fashion design. After his teacher Akira Kasai moved to Germany, Yamazaki continued his butoh practice with Kunishi Kamiryo at Salamu-kan. With an intention of expanding the field and possibilities of butoh, Yamazaki started creating contemporary dance works in his 30s with Tokyo-based dance company Rosy co.

With the invitation from Germain Acogny to create a dance piece in collaboration with her Senegal-based company Jant-bi, Yamazaki disbanded his Tokyo-based company, which he led from 1995 tp 2001. Since 2003, Yamazaki has been based in both New York and Tokyo, presenting dance works nationally and internationally.

From 2016 through 2019, Yamazaki received artistic commissions from the Japan Contemporary Dance Network, New York Live Arts, and the Baryshnikov Arts Center in New York, to create a dance trilogy called the “Darkness Odyssey” that examined butoh founder Tatsumi Hijikata’s dance of darkness and its relation to Gilles Deluze’s philosophies. During those years, Yamazaki continued to teach around the world, and he is a current teaching faculty member at Bennington College in Vermont.

Yamazaki has also served as the director of the Whenever Wherever Festival, a Tokyo-based cross-disciplinary experimental dance festival since 2009.

Yamazaki has received numerous awards for his work including a 2018 Guggenheim Fellowship, a New York Dance and Performance Award (also known as the Bessie Award), Foundation for Contemporary Arts Grant Award (2013), and a 2016 New York Foundation for the Arts award for his work as founder and director of the FLUID HUG-HUG dance company, which integrates butoh-based somatic practices, Japanese aesthetics, and Buddhist teachings such as “one equals many, many equals, one.”

Anastazia Louise Aranaga is the founder and artistic director of Bad Unkl Sista, a performance art ensemble that combines choreography, original and improvised music, couture costuming, and physical theater elements to produce site-specific durational performances that seek to provoke and inspire — changing how witnesses relate to the performers, to the world, and to themselves.

Since 2002,  Aranaga has produced hundreds of performances for local, regional, and international promoters and festivals. Notable works include “First Breath – Last Breath,” an opera-scale production that spawned two audio recordings and a documentary short film titled “The Space Between.” Aranaga also choreographed and performed in “Little Match Girl Passion,” an adaptation of David Lang’s Pulitzer Prize-winning work performed in both San Francisco (U.S.) and Odense (Denmark).

Aranaga was introduced to butoh by Diego Piñón (Butoh Ritual Mexicano) in 2002, and his teachings remain an ongoing inspiration for her performance work. Other influences include Hiroko and Koichi Tamano, Sankai Juku, and Vangeline.

Aranaga has also had the privilege of collaborating with internationally recognized artists including Flam Chen, Beats Antique, SORNE, ill.GATES, Human Nature Dance Company, Totter Todd, Soriah, Stellamara, Mizu Desierto, Nathan Montgomery (Syzygy Butoh), Richochet, The L.A. Stilt Circus, and VerbaBola.