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07/20/2006 – With the uneasy waters of Howe Sound as a backdrop, and the lapping waves as the musical score, 22 Kokoro dancers will transform the shore as they perform their annual Wreck Beach Butoh next Saturday. Wearing nothing more than a thin coating of white powder, the dancers will move along the length of the beach, in and out of the water, in a dance meant to reflect the majesty of the natural world around them. Their naked bodies -- coated with white powder that will wash away as they move in the waves -- act as instruments playing out a scene left open to the interpretation of the audience.

The Wreck Beach Butoh is something of a celebratory event for the Kokoro dancers, who regularly perform in the confines of a theatre or other indoor spaces.

Kokoro Dance executive director Jay Hirabayashi says the ritual annual performance is a reminder for the performers of their place in the natural world.

"The Wreck Beach piece for me personally is my favourite piece to perform," Hirabayashi said in a recent interview.

"It's kind of a renewal. It kind of re-invigorates us and reminds us of who we are and really places us in the environment. "Theatres are so artificial. . . On the beach it's just you and the elements, so it's something special down there." As for dancing in the nude, Hirabayashi believes dancers would choose more frequently to dance without clothing if there weren't the prevalent social hang-ups that exist around nudity.

"For us, we're not concerned about titillating or dancing naked as a form of sexual expression," he said. "It's really because our bodies are our vocabulary, our tools. We come in all different shapes and sizes, and each one of us expresses themselves in a unique and different way. Exposing the body allows the fullest amount of that expression." Hirabayashi said the group didn't choose Wreck Beach as the venue for the annual performance simply because it is a clothing-optional beach, but also because it is the wildest of the city's beaches.

Aside from the view in the distance of the downtown skyline and the West Vancouver million-dollar homes marching up the mountainside, Wreck beach is essentially a pocket of wilderness within the city.

"It has its own magic and mystery," Hirabayashi said. "And as a stage, it's wonderful."

Hirabayashi said there are unique challenges to performing on a beach, one of which is holding the attention of the audience. In past years, as many as 500 people have trekked down to the beach to watch the afternoon spectacle, but many of them also felt free to talk during the performance because of its setting.

To hold their attention, the dance has to be particularly compelling. Hirabayashi said the dance is left open to the interpretation of the audience, but reflects themes from the natural world.

"It relates to the earth and the water and the air and the transformations of human beings, in an emotional and an evolutionary way," he said. "For us, it's a physical and emotional and, I would say, spiritual journey."

The performance will go on despite any inclement weather that may be in the forecast and is by donation.
What: 11th Annual Wreck Beach Butoh
Where: Wreck Beach at the foot of Trail #4 west of the UBC Museum of Anthropology
When: Sat, July 22, 10:30 a.m., and July 23 at 11:30 a.m.

From an article by Amy O'Brian in the Vancouver Sun

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