Workshop: KONPAKU 魂魄– the River of Elsewhere


IMG_0936 smallA beautiful end-of the summer day, Saturday, Sept. 12, 2015 I 5:30 p.m., we gathered at Concordia University, NE Portland, OR., and opened the one-hour work-shop. My opening introduction stating “this workshop is a collaboration between a butoh dancer, Teresa Vanderkin and me, a visual artist, Yukiyo Kawano. Together, we investigate what exists beyond the visible.” Then Teresa gave us a beautiful speech –here is the quote from her speech:

Konpaku describes “the riverbanks where the dead and the living come and go, very much at peace with themselves.”  Natsu Nakajima, one of the first female founders of Butoh, emphasizes that the Japanese use Buddhist terms such as higan – the far side of the riverbank for the world of the dead, and shigan – the near side of the riverbank for the world of the living.  “Konpaku is where the dead come and go several times a year crossing the river to their ancestral homes.  It is not a place, but “nowhere out there”.

Teresa went on and gave a history of how we became working together as collaborators:
In spring, 2014, a Butoh choreography, Meshi Chavez (Teresa’s teacher) encountered Kawano’s life-sized renditions of the nuclear bomb for the first time. He immediately imagined a Butoh body moving with the object made of kimonos stitched together with strands of the artist’s hair. Kawano, seeing Chavez’s movement in the present, envisioned the unseen history of the past. The dance was thus created, in which Kawano’s work synchronized with the yami (shadowy darkness), in Chavez’s Butoh body. As the dance/story developed and a soft sculpture of the A-bomb rose, participants were surrounded by the history, the present moment, and the possible future. At this energized site, the moment is suspended.
We shared a video presentation of a Butoh dance, Suspended Moment: Desperate Bid for Life, 2014, performed by Meshi Chavez.

The last half of the workshop, the participants were guided through the process of creating the Butoh body that “becomes nothing”, by a simple walk, walking through the idea of not knowing the body, thus less controlling the body, shedding off our idea of “what we think the body should be”. 

photo by Ilana Sol

























In the dusk, the workshop was followed by a Butoh dance performed by Teresa Vanderkin, choreographed by Meshi Chavez with sculpture created by Yukiyo Kawano


photo by Ilana Sol


The slow-moving Butoh body of Teresa Vanderkin finds the moment to peel away the illusion of ‘the Human’ and resonate with Konpaku, the infinite world, with all of them as Life. As the dance develops a life-size soft sculpture of the atomic bomb, Little Boy, rises and suspends in the mid-air.

Photo by Ilana Sol

Participants had an opportunity to carry lanterns in a procession through the field of Konpaku.  What we experienced was a singular view of Japanese history, becoming aware of the performer and the presence of each other in the present as we reflect on the past.

Let our imagination go wild to the land of “nowhere our there”, the land of KONPAKU.


reflect on “Suspended Moment:Desperate Bid For Life”

In my reflecting the pre-show performance (Centennial Play – “Words That Burn”) with a Butoh dancer, Meshi Chavez, on Sep., 27th, 2014.

Photo by: Kerry Davis
One of the way I understood about that moment — the moment felt like a phantom; the sense of impossibility filled the space;
We all have experienced a nihilistic desire; imagine our own death…  imagine the other side… etc. At that suspended site, perhaps the desire (or our curiosities) didn’t exist in the form of an internal psych. Instead we created the moment when there was no depth and no lines that separate the inside and the outside.
The desire was suspended in the mid-air, casting across the entire surface of the space — the space that was not really there.

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Excerpt from Ian Lucero’s film