A handful of Human Nature Dance Theater performing artists are poised to ponder humanity’s emotional struggles, triumphs and conundrums. In sweeping, emotive movements they posit: What if there were no borders?
Human Nature Dance Theater’s three-part evening of dance includes “Migration,” a new piece grown from witnessing the effects of immigration. The dancers dissect these issues through emotional personal experience in a daring amalgam combining modern dance, the theatrics of Butoh, spoken word and music.
Human Nature Dance Theater presents “Migration” Saturday, May 27 at the Coconino Center for the Arts at 7 p.m. Tickets are $15 in advance, $18 on the day of the show; $9 for children and students. For more, call 779-2300 or visit HumanNatureDance.org.
Two years ago, HNDT member Paul Moore began to explore a range of human emotions, and became fascinated with the dance practice called Butoh as well as the concepts behind the Indian rasas, or aesthetics.
Butoh’s theatrical, and technically astounding, dance practice originated in Japan in the late 1950s, note contemporary dance experts, and translates to “Dance of Darkness.”
However, as Moore explained, he will use this practice comprised of intense movements and expression to explore a broad range of 27 emotions in his duet with Eriko Starley called “Being Human.”
“I was specifically interested in exploring a broader range of emotions,” Moore said. “Sometimes as artists we get angst-ridden and deal with more of the negative. I was specifically interested in some of the positive emotions. I actually found that surprisingly difficult.”
Not only does this piece explore a range of emotions, Moore noted, but they develop more slowly over the course of the piece as the style itself opens doors for expression using the entire body from fingers to facial contortions.
“In Butoh, you’re witnessing an artist who is obviously experiencing something on a deep, internal level,” he added. “Whereas oftentimes in modern dance, the performer has a blank face — it’s about the body moving through space, and more of a visual thing than a kinesthetic one.”
HNDT is very thematic in approach and presentation — deriving meaning and holistic experience on stage. But this three-part performance features standalone duets: “Being Human,” “Migration,” and a piece between Delisa Myles and Jayne Lee about relationship. This style of presentation represents a departure for the group that often performs a seamless evening surrounding one core theme.
What grew from the group’s annual weeklong residency at Arcosanti, explained Moore, is a piece that responds to the news of today: The fact many people are no longer safe in their homes and must pick up and move, willingly or not.
Moore noted that “Migration” as a single duet is not rooted in his personal experience. However, his partner in the dance, HNDT founder Jayne Lee, was born and educated in London.
The piece reflects a personal connection as well as a response to witnessing news broadcasts and seeing how people across the nation, especially here in Arizona, are affected daily by immigration talks, noted Moore.
“It’s trying to make that connection to imagine what people going through those kinds of experiences are feeling,” he said, noting the artists expect audiences to bring their own experiences to the table, too, rounding out the emotional arc.
And though the evening’s presentation will mark an interesting degree of change, HNDT’s theatrical quality continues to flow into “Migration.” The inclusion of spoken word and experimental music pushes audiences to experience their shows beyond the visual component, noted Moore.
“People will witness a story orally, visually, kinesthetically, although it will not necessary be literal or linear,” he added. “Our hope is that they will be moved and they will make connections with their own personal lives. It is art. It can be challenging, however, I feel that anyone will find value, whether or not they have experienced dance performance in the past.”