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Melancholia - A Portrait of M

Mitsuyo Uesugi

Butoh Inspired Music & Words

Kamura Obscura
A New Experimental Butoh Dance/Film Performance, showcased with a musical prelude by UK music group Kamura Obscura

Melancholia - A Portrait of M was originally commissioned for the DIGITAL//REALITY Festival, a festival reflecting on the digital world the performing arts had been thrown into as a result of Covid and its effect on society, as part of the Dance Dance Dance Triennale in Yokohama, Japan in 2021. Created in collaboration with film maker and butoh dancer Makiko Takamatsu, this work embodies the experimental approach to dance that butoh originally set out to achieve, by reflecting the world we live in today.

 

Mitsuyo, who has been performing butoh for over 50 years, considers this her most relevant work today and plans to adapt and develop both the film and dance elements of the work with Makiko Takamatsu for this year’s tour to keep it fresh and current, while always drawing on the history and her experience of a space.

 

This special showing at Birmingham will be preluded by UK-based experimental musicians Kamura Obscura, to bring to the audience a unique, one-time-only performance.

8 November @ Moseley Community Hub, Birmingham

From £18 / £15 accessible

Workshop + performance / 3-day pass also available

Mitsuyo Uesugi

Biography

Award-winning* Mitsuyo Uesugi made a name for herself in Japan as one of the first female solo butoh dancers, after leaving a career in ballet to become a student of butoh founder Kazuo Ohno at the age of 20. In 1973 she appeared in Kazuo Ohno's experimental film Mr O’s Book of the Dead, and created her first butoh solo, Guren-yakyoku in 1975. She has since performed numerous times all over the world, and collaborated with dancers, musicians and theatre makers notably from France, after spending a number of years there. She has also toured the US, and performed at the V&A and The Place in London. Most recently she has expressed a renewed interest in pursuing the experimental, and was invited to perform at the Aparte Festival in Norway in 2022 as part of a collaborative physical theatre piece. Now 73, Mitsuyo Uesugi is one of a rapidly diminishing generation of butoh dancers still active today.


*Dance Critics Society of Japan Award: Baby Melancholia—Dream of Six Nights (2009)

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Workshop

with Mitsuyo Uesugi

A rare opportunity to learn from the award-winning, Japan-based butoh dancer Mitsuyo Uesugi.
For anyone who has ever attempted a butoh workshop in Europe, be prepared to encounter the brilliantly and unabashedly Tokyo-based Mitsuyo Uesugi. Now 73 years old, she developed her own style under the wings of founder Kazuo Ohno for 50 years only to come forward with her own uniquely earthy and current ideas about butoh.

7 November @ Moseley Community Hub, Birmingham

£30 (Pay what you can also available)

Kamura Obscura

Music and words

Kamura Obscura (Atsuko Kamura and Natalie Mason) explores vocal improvisation with electronics, experimental composition with noise, viola, and lyrical yet surreal singing.

They have released several albums and the latest, "4 AM Diary” was reviewed by Stewart Lee: "4am diary is a nightclub cabaret in occupied territory, inscrutable subversion, discombobulation, kirsch-quaffing commissars.”- Idler, 2022.

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Atsuko Kamura

Member of Kamura Obscura

One of Tokyo's most emotive and inventive artists and part of the women’s liberation movement in Japan in the 1980s, Atsuko was one of the founding members of the first all-feminist Japanese punk band, Mizutama Shobodan [Polkadot Fire Brigade], which formed in 1979 in Tokyo. Mizutama Shobodan toured Japan extensively, setting up their own record label and releasing two albums. Their second album, “Manten ni Akai Hanabira” [Red Petals in the Sky] was produced by Fred Frith. 

 

She also teamed up with Tenko to form the female improvisation vocal duo Honeymoons in 1981, performing internationally with seminal New York improvisers such as Tom Cora and John Zorn. 

In 1988 she joined Kazuko Hohki’s UK based Japanese pop group Frank Chickens and toured Europe, the US, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, USSR and Japan.

 

Since 2002, she has collaborated with musicians of diverse genres such as Robert Storey from Orchestra Murphy. 

 

Although her career has primarily been in music, dance has been a life long passion. She started to train in contemporary dance at the age of 18, and in 1974 she saw Akira Kasai’s butoh performance in Tokyo, which made a significant impact on her whole artistic career.  

She trained in butoh at Akira Kasai’s Tenshikan until his departure for Germany in 1979, and attended numerous workshops with butoh masters such as Kazuo Ohno, Min Tanaka, and body work pioneers Michizo Noguchi and Haruchika Noguchi. 

She has since qualified in dance therapy at Roehampton University in 2004, and has been working with those with learning difficulties, on the autism spectrum and those with mental health issues in the UK and Japan, as well as running improvisation workshops combining music, dance, and art. 

Atsuko Kamura profile photo_© Andrea Rocca_edited.jpg

Natalie Mason

Member of Kamura Obscura

Multi-instrumentalist, improviser, and composer Natalie Mason has performed and recorded internationally at the BBC Proms, FIFA World Cup, Symphony Hall and Real World Studios. She has been commissioned as a composer by Surge Orchestra, Flatpack Film Festival and Dorcha, with her music played on BBC Radio 3.

She is a member of the avant-pop experimental duo Kamura Obscura, co-curates alternative music night Club Integral Midlands Branch and recently completed a national tour with The Nightingales. 

Originally from Birmingham, Natalie returned to live and work there in 2012 following the completion of her Master’s degree in Music and Development at SOAS in London, before which she spent several years living and working in South Africa. Natalie's work as an improvising creative music facilitator with music therapists in Cape Town was particularly significant to her development as a practitioner of intercultural music-making. 

Since 2015, Natalie has been directing the Multicultural Music Making project (MMM) she created in partnership with Friction Arts. MMM is a child-centred community music education programme guided and informed by the interests, geographical connections and cultural heritages of the young musicians taking part.

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