By Yasmine Shemesh
VANCOUVER — “In 1980, we saw a performance by a Japanese company that was passing through Vancouver,” recalls Jay Hirabayashi, co-founder and co-artistic director of Kokoro Dance. “We were just mesmerized by that performance because it was so different from anything we had seen before. The memory of that dance stayed with us for six years while we danced with other companies. When we decided to form our own company, we decided that’s what we wanted to do, the direction we wanted to go. We wanted to find our own way of moving and expressing ourselves.”
The movements that inspired Hirabayashi and his wife, fellow dancer Barbara Bourget, was butoh — a Japanese art form that embraces free motions of the body. When the pair formed Kokoro in 1986, they adopted butoh’s deconstructed philosophy and techniques, painting their bodies white and shaving their heads, to create provocative pieces that reach into the heart, soul, and spirit (which is also the Japanese definition of the word “kokoro”).
Spurred from the Magnetic Fields song of the same name, Kokoro’s new production, The Book of Love, is an exploration of the various ways we express love. The costumes and sets were designed by British artist Jonathan Baldock and the score was written by Canadian composer Jeffery Ryan (played live by chamber ensemble Standing Wave). The piece sees Hirabayashi, Bouget, and resident dancers Molly McDermott and Billy Marchenski onstage together, portraying a variety of juxtapositions that move through several combinations of relationships.
“I think contemporary dance is more like an abstract painting,” Hirabayashi explains. “It’s not a linear or narrative kind of look at the subject. It’s more of a collage of different emotions that you experience. You don’t understand love unless you understand hate, so there’s lots of different emotional textures in it that come and go and build and swell and ebb and die.”
When asked if he’s gained any wisdom from creating a piece about love, Hirabayashi laughs. “Barbara and I have been together for almost 40 years… We’ve been through a lot. We’ve struggled a lot and we’ve raised a family — we have four kids and five grandkids… I guess we have certain life experience that we, as artists, want to share in our work. I don’t know if that’s wisdom; it’s just who we are and what we know.”
The Book of Love runs at the Roundhouse from November 25 to November 28,; December 2 to December 5.BC, British Columbia, butoh, dance, Kokoro Dance, Roundhouse Performance Centre, The Book of Love