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MANJUSAKA The Equinox Flower work in progress, 2014

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"MANJUSAKA was an exhilarating ride. One moment we’re witnessing what feels like the last gasp of life inside a butterfly killing jar (subtle, intense and deeply sinister),  the next we’re flung into a futuristic Blade Runner Tokyo cabaret show, complete with banshee screaming and a blazing light show. An enjoyable night out that was full of surprises."  (Darrin Grimwood)

 

MANJUSAKA is a dance project by Yumino Seki and funded by the Arts Council England. Seki and her cross-disciplined team explore worlds of the immortal in dance and light installation. 

Seki’s choreography is drawn from Butoh, a form of Japanese avant-garde dance theatre. Butoh emerged from the post war chaos in Japan in the 1950s when the country grappled with the clash between new Western technology and traditional Japanese values. Butoh became a new form of expression, neither an imitation of western culture nor a traditional Japanese cultural practice. 

MANJUSAKA is a vivid red flower in the amaryllis family that blooms at the equinox when the dead and living are believed to converge.  Inspired by the Japanese ancestor worship, Higan, Seki explored the worlds of the corporeal and incorporeal through Butoh dance and lights.  MANJUSAKA is an evocative collage, a fusion of East and West, contemporary and traditional.  

MANJUSAKA seeks out alternative venues and settings, both indoors to outdoors, away from the conventional theatre space. Simple light installation creates electric landscapes giving a sense of place and perspective. 

MANJUSAKA creates a multidimensional experience for viewers, incorporating choreography, light installation, soundscape and guided viewing points. 

MANJUSAKA is an evocative collage, a fusion of East and West, contemporary and traditional. 

MANJUSAKA consists with five sketches in light installations;

Fukushima Butterfly - A butterfly carries a soul of the dead, Red circle

The Twins - What if, someone like you exists on the other side, White line

Manjusaka - A Place in-between where manjusaka, the equinox flowers blossom, Criss Cross line

GOKURAKU - Heavenly Plateau, an ultimate pleasure land, Multi-coloured Podium

The Three Rivers - Life is an ever flowing river, Multi-coloured three lines

 

Conceived and performed by Yumino Seki, Alison Grace and Fabiola Santana

Sound scape by Nick Weeks

Lighting design and podium by Pulse Event Management

photo by Sin Bozkurt

"The work slides along the thin membrane of dreams and waking with the grace of a panther. Sometimes delivering as a whisper and sometimes delivering as a laugh-out-loud guffaw.  A controlled purposeful mania drifting across the stars. Seki's performances never cease to transfix." (Andrew Kötting)

Special thanks to;

Arts Council England, St Mary's in the Castle, Pulse School of Movement and Pulse Event Management, Gary Rowe and Judy Parkinson

Yumino Seki in conversation with Judy Parkinson 

‘We walk on dead people all the time. Their bones are buried beneath our feet everywhere.’ Yumino’s world of Butoh is a bit like this. There are dividing lines, boundaries, meridians and latitudes, all crossing over and reflecting each other. East and West, dark and light, mortal and immortal, fast and slow, loud and quiet, dancer and viewer, the inner self and the outer body. 

Yumino started dancing in Tokyo when she was 8. Early on she experienced some striking influences. The nursery school principal always dressed in a traditional kimono, and his dance was a severe form of German expressionism. She soon took up classical ballet. 

Yumino learnt the intricacies of Butoh in Europe. ‘I knew about Butoh in Japan,’ she recalls, ‘but there’s a stigma about it there. Butoh is extreme – dancers can be naked with shaved heads, painted white, screaming. It can be disturbing and anti- authoritarian or by contrast surreal, absurd and even humorous.’ 

She confesses that she was not quite brave enough for Butoh classes in Japan. She moved to London aged 28 and began a performing arts course incorporating body, mind and creative movement, leaving her formal dance education behind. 

In London she came across Butoh classes led by western teachers. ‘In Japan you copy the teacher, but in London we explored our inner selves, our human feelings. I felt liberated.’ For over 20 years Yumino has performed Butoh in all over Europe. 

Yumino’s continuing exploration of sensory experience in artistic expression led her to somatic movement classes in Amsterdam where she studied Voice Movement Integration Somatic Practice. ‘It’s a holistic approach to the body in which the emotional and physical come together - the embodiment of wholeness. And since the voice is part of us, everything is linked up,’ she says. 

Along with Butoh, Yumino teaches Active Arts - dance for adults with learning disabilities as part of a Mencap society in Hastings. 

Last year’s Coastal Currents festival saw Yumino at the Durbah Hall in Hastings Museum. ‘I wanted to bring the architecture into the choreography using the audience, sound and light; to break the two dimensional tradition of stage and viewer and make something new. I had the audience upstairs looking down on the dance so they could appreciate the space as well as the dance. Space is so important for me – how can I make a space seem bigger, smaller, more intimate? I made parallel worlds with sound in certain areas. Maybe it was odd, but it gave the depth I was looking for.’ 

‘This year, we have support from the Arts Council England, and for our Butoh installation in St Mary in the Castle, I want to work with space again, but instead of working with the architecture, we have a big neutral space that I will map out with three 10 metre light strips and two drawn semi circles of light. Lines are very important in this project – lines between east and west – the solstice alignment – when sunrise and sunset are aligned. This year’s dance is called Manjusaka, the fragrant flower that blooms at the Autumn equinox. 

‘The lines can be straight or made into segments that alter the space and the atmosphere. Sensory experience depends where the viewers are positioned – it changes their experience and together with soundscape, how much we want the sound to travel.’ 

There are three dancers in the performance, Yumino herself, Alison Grace and Fabiola Santana. The common thread is Butoh in which each dancer expresses themselves in form, shape and spirit, pulling the whole thing into one. 

As Fabiola says: ‘We transmute energy to evoke and embody feelings and memories of dances - of butterflies, ghosts, paradise, my other self, inner self, open and closing of doors, childhood and transcending from one frequency to another. There’s a flow of the paradise arc as things appear organically. We shift our mind-set and transform our energy.’ 

Alison talks about working with Yumino: ‘She has a gentle and feminine approach, inspired by her Butoh training and somatic practice- always seeking the truthful and the genuine in our dance experience and in our expression. As we work together, we build new landscapes, starting from the visions of the equinox flower, to the edge of what is still unknown to us.’ 

‘I’m lucky to have fantastic collaborators - dancers Alison and Fabiola,’ says Yumino, ‘and of course the technical team, Jamie Griffiths, Nick Weeks, Gary Rowe and Jim Roseveare, who all understand my world of Butoh. We’ve just finished a great rehearsal period, it has been an amazing sensory journey. I hope we can take viewers with us and make it a sensory journey for them too, crossing boundaries, reflecting what’s outside and inside, above and below.’ 

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