December 8, 2016

Princeton Atelier presents The Story is the Body

The Lewis Center for the Arts’ Princeton Atelier will present an immersive, interactive performance, The Story is the Body, exploring the concept of Time that combines both film and the avant-garde dance form Butoh. The evening-length piece was created by award-winning filmmaker and Princeton alum Josephine Decker and Vangeline, artistic director of the Butoh dance company Vangeline Theater, along with Princeton students, as a part of the fall course “Filmmaking and Dance – Butoh and Technology.” The performance will take place on Monday, December 12 and Tuesday, December 13 at 7:30 p.m. in the Lucas Gallery at 185 Nassau Street. The event is free and open to the public, but reservations are encouraged.

The course incorporates collaboration between the two artists and with students of diverse backgrounds utilizing filmmaking and Butoh. Curated film viewings, selected readings, discussions, and film editing were combined with learning how to dance Butoh. The course parallels a professional ongoing artistic collaboration between Decker and Vangeline in which the students were invited to participate. The semester culminates in this collective performance combining both art forms by students and principal dancers from Vangeline Theater.

butoh dance

Creation of a filmed segment for the Princeton Atelier’s presentation of The Story is the Body. Photo by Josephine Decker

The avant-garde form Butoh has often been called the “Dance of Darkness” (Ankoku Butoh). Founded by Tatsumi Hijikata and Kazuo Ohno in post-war Japan in the 1950’s in the aftermath of Hiroshima, it has now become a global art form.

Audiences for The Story is the Body will be involved visually and experientially in the performance, interacting through projected films and movement.

Decker is a writer, director, and performer of independent films, documentaries, and performance art that have been praised by The New Yorker, The New York Times, and Indiewire. Her films include the Netflix documentary feature Bi the Way, Butter on the Latch, and Thou Wast Mild and Lovely, which earned the Independent Visions Award at Sarasota Film Fest, the Emerging Filmmaker Award at IndieMemphis, and the Best Narrative Feature Award at Dallas VideoFest. Decker’s short films and videos, including the New Yorker-praised “Me The Terrible,” have screened at the Museum of Modern Art, the Austin Film Festival, and on PBS. Her performance art pieces have been featured at the United Nations and won first place for the Human Impacts Institute’s Climate Challenge. She is a member of Princeton’s Class of 2003.

Vangeline is an internationally renowned teacher, dancer, and choreographer of butoh. She is the founder of the New York Butoh Institute and artistic director of the Vangeline Theater in New York City, an all-female dance company that combines traditional Japanese butoh with social activism. Vangeline also founded the award-winning, decade-old “Dream a Dream Project”, which brings Butoh to people who are incarcerated throughout New York City. She has taught butoh at multiple universities, including Cornell University, New York University, and a recent invitation to City University of New York. Recipient of the 2015 Gibney Dance’s Beth Silverman-Yam Social Action Award, Vangeline has starred alongside James Franco and Wynona Rider in the film The Letter. CNN also used her work as the central subjects of “Great Big Story,” “Learning to Dance with your Demons,” and “Dance of Darkness.”

The professional Vangeline Theater principal dancers who will join the student performers and Vangeline include Azumi Oe, Maki Shinagawa, and Stacy Lynn Smith.

The Princeton Atelier was founded in 1994 by Princeton Professor Emerita Toni Morrison and is directed by Paul Muldoon, Princeton’s Howard G.B. Clark ’21 Professor in the Humanities and Professor of Creative Writing. Lecturer in Theater and English R.N. Sandberg is serving as acting director of the program during the current semester. This academic program brings together professional artists from different disciplines to create new work in the context of a semester-long course. Every course is unique and happens only once. A painter might team with a composer, a choreographer might join with an electrical engineer, a company of theater artists might engage with environment scientists, or a poet might connect with a videographer. Princeton students have an unrivaled opportunity to be directly involved in these collaborations.

Admission to The Story is the Body is free, however visitors are encouraged to reserve a space.

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Steve Runk
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