If you come to Links Hall’s month-long program of breakdance and butoh expecting “Krush Groove,” Nicole LeGette’s weighty program notes will disabuse you fast. LaGette has put together an ambitious set of performances, films, lectures and workshops, extending beyond Links to the Chicago Cultural Center, Spareroom and Shin Higuchi Institute. Last weekend’s performance, featuring a duet by Rodney Mason and Marianne Kim and a solo by LeGette herself, left me with as many questions as answers about LeGette’s intriguing pairing. Butoh, originally an underground form of Japanese dance developed in the postwar period as a thorough-going assault on traditional forms, shares with breakdancing a formal obsession with the transformation of one pose into another through rigorous muscle control. But the meanings of the two movement styles seem radically different: the athletic exuberance of breaking celebrates the body, while butoh’s often violent askesis seems more to endure corporeality as only momentarily escapable. The tensions between the two forms, as well as an overwrought conceptual framework, bedeviled Mason and Kim’s “Madam in Eden… I’m Adam.” The overriding problem, though, was that the piece gave these two gifted dancers too little opportunity to move; the astonishing slow-motion sequence with which Mason closed the piece only highlighted the relative barrenness of the preceding forty minutes. LeGette’s “Raw Child,” remaining firmly in the anti-tradition of butoh, achieved an uneasy transcendent power through the raw force of her commitment to the form. Both butoh and breakdancing remain essential resources for the vocabulary of innovative choreographers and dancers; if this heady series invites deeper investigation of their relationship while bringing them to new audiences, it’ll be an undeniable success. (John Beer)
“The Body Breaks” plays at Links Hall, 3435 North Sheffield, (773)281-0824, through March 26.