Yumi Umiumare celebrates being out of order

by | Nov 7, 2023

Running since 2017, ButohOUT! is the only creative platform of its kind in Australia.  Created and run by artists Yumi Umiumare and Taka Takiguchi 滝口貴, it focuses on the distinctive art form of Butoh. ButohBAR 番狂わせ OUT of ORDER is the 2023 finale event from the three-month long event. This year’s theme “Out of Order” evolved from conversations between visual artist Jacqui Stockdale and ButohOUT! co-founder Yumi Umiumare around the concept of a Butoh Banquet that was a strange, macabre dinner and performance “out of order.”

Read on to learn more from co-creator Yumi Umiumare

What was the inspiration for the show?

Earlier this year I met a producer of the Hokkaido Butoh Festival in Japan via an online international forum about Butoh. We shared lots of common interests and I heard that they were doing different styles of a “Butoh Bar”, involving drinks and food, to make Butoh more accessible and fun.

We had actually planned to do a “Butoh Night Club” show last year, as a part of ButohOUT! 2022, but had to cancel due to numerous performers getting Covid, so we were keen to pursue our combined ideas of Butoh Bar/Night Club.

What is it about this show that you consider to be enduring?

Some uncertain and abstract elements of performance and audience interactions and participations.

How would you describe the show to someone who knew very little about it?

ButohBAR: Out of Order serves up subversive performance, sound, visual installations, and audience participation. It is an immersive experience with food and drink with the aim to soothe the soul and feed the imagination.

ButohOUT! is widely praised for its innovative use of movement and radically inclusive approach, involving participants from all age groups, ability, gender, nationality, sexual orientation, and level of practice. The styles of performance and teaching of ButohOUT! often combine Butoh with other forms of dance and theatre to explore identity, memory, social satire, absurdity, and to celebrate diversity. Yumi Umiumare and ButohOUT! have launched a whole new generation of Butoh practitioners who are continually pushing boundaries.

What are some of the themes involved and why are these important?

Overall, Butoh offers a unique perspective on the idea of being out of order, and can provide a source of insight, inspiration, and creativity in the face of disruptions and challenges.

Serious challenges not only caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, but also the global crisis and human tensions we face today which beg the question “How do we create new ways of being that allow our hearts and minds to heed what these times are asking of us?”

There will be “out of order” elements in the shows every night – can you explain a little about what that means?

The title: Out of Order is an invitation to confront and celebrate being out of order. It shines a light on aspects of life that can be difficult to chew, swallow, and digest. This positive approach to the dysfunctionality of today will give artists and participants an unconventional form of relief, by way of a spiritual upheaval.

We also question what is “order” in the first place? It feels like there really isn’t a conventional “order” in our daily lives anymore.

How important is the food and drink element of the show and what does this symbolise?

We are still in the middle of finalising our practical elements with food and drinks but the integration stems from the idea that food and drink are not only used for consumption, but also are powerful metaphors and catalysts for creative provocations (eg exploring the healing power of comfort food and the destructive nature of over-indulgence). Food and drink can also be utilised as props and costume, rooted in the idea of using physical objects and experiences to explore and express the human condition.

What excites you the most about appearing live? What keeps the fire in the belly burning?

Live performances are always raw and exciting in terms of sensing the energy of the space and working with audience responses, unlike online/video performances. Personally, I always love to have elements of audience participation, to encourage them physically and mentally to move through our interactions and have a unique experience.

What sort of artist do you consider yourself? How would you describe yourself as a creative?

I am an independent artist who loves working in interdisciplinary art forms through dance, theatre, music and visual arts. My interests are connecting more and more into the deeper aspect of performance making, exploring rituals and spirituality. I see a show/performance as a whole ritual, not just entertainment, where both performers and audience can be transformed through the experience.

Who inspires you and why?

Most recently I felt great inspiration from seeing a show by Betty Grumble who was a real “Shaman”. She can transform us, uplift us, make us humble and ground us, which not many performers can do. It was truly amazing.

What is next for you?

I will finish a VR film which I have been involved in creating and also go to Japan in early December to choreograph an amazing dance team at a Japanese university.

And finally, what would you say to encourage audiences to attend?

Come and join us for delicious food and drink and experience something out of the ordinary… and out of whack!

Originally called the Dance of Darkness, Butoh has its roots in post-WWII Japan. Emerging as a response to the social and cultural turmoil of the time, classic styles of Butoh sought to express the trauma, anxiety, and confusion of this era through movement, sound, and visual imagery. Often shocking, grotesque, and surreal, Butoh challenges the norms of conventional performance styles and offers a way to explore new forms of expression and adaptation.

There is a cast of 20+ for the show including recent graduates from the ButohOUT! workshops, seasoned professionals Emma Bathgate, Hal Tanaka (Online), Willow J Conway, and Yumi Umiumare, and guest artists Maude Davey, Moira Finucane, Weave Movement Theatre, and Dan West

November 15 – 19


Image: Vikk Shayen

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