‘Antigones,’ a Butoh performance by Ximena Garnica, applies the myth of Antigone

Ximena Garnica, artistic director of Garnica LEIMAY, the Brooklyn-based Butoh Dance company, will perform the world premiere of “Antigones” at Joyce SoHo, Manhattan, September 18 to 21. The Greek myth of Antigone is rendered in Butoh Dance to illustrate the experience of absence, among families and friends, of los Desaparecidos, the “disappeared ones” of Colombia’s political upheavals. The work is a collaboration among choreographer/dancer Ximena Garnica, video artist Shige Moriya, guest director Juan Merchan and sound artist Roland Toledo.

In her classical story, Antigone attempted to secure a respectable burial for her brother Polynices, even though he was a traitor to Thebes. Creon’s dictum on Polynices is analogous to the efforts of contemporary oppressors to make their victims “disappear” so they will be forgotten. The choreography of this piece is based on the absence of los Desaparecidos as a body condition, apprehending all that has perished in ourselves, but is as yet an unacknowledged vacuum, multi-faceted and difficult to decipher.

Ximena Garnica in Antigones.
Ximena Garnica in Antigones

Garnica and Merchan describe their Antigone as a wandering shadow, the female spirit who had never fully received the stiff bodies of her dead. They write, “She is without rest, haunted by the vacuum of absence, of those who are no longer present. She is also a reproach to society, provoking the State, with its cruel laws, and all those for whom passivity assumes the new shape of war.” According to Garnica, there are moments when the human being finds an interior force that is capable of transforming the self and surrounding reality. This epiphany is peculiarly experienced by women in wartime, she says, which is why myth had attached the power to Antigone. This is the central theme of Ximena Garnica’s “Antigones.”

Ximena Garnica’s company, Garnica LEIMAY, pursues a technique of “Actions Through Senses.” The name Leimay is a made-up word based on a Japanese term meaning the moment of change (as in the moment between darkness and the light at dawn; also the time of change between eras.) This notion is expressed in Antigone’s moment of clarity, when she found an inner power to transform events around her.

An initial version of this piece, lasting only twenty minutes, was presented October 27, 2007 in “Kazuo Ohno 101,” a three-week Butoh parade and marathon at Japan Society, NYC, which was part of the Third New York Butoh Festival. The current version will be 50 minutes.

Garnica LEIMAY, an interdisciplinary performance company and lab founded in 2004, is a resident company of CAVE, an arts collective located at 58 Grand Street, Brooklyn. LEIMAY is dedicated to dance performance, dance training and inter-media collaborations.

Ximena Garnica had grown up as an actress and was initially trained for theater. “Absurdism,” she recalls, “was the material of my generation.” At age 16, she attended the Lee Strasberg Institute here and studied with Uta Hagen, but she grew to question her role as an actor. Researching the writings of Eugenio Barba and others, she developed an interest in Anthropology of the Body. Her entry point into Butoh was a lucky accident: in the writings of Eugenio Barba, she confused the words bujo (japanese for dance) with Butoh. She points out that in Asia, dancing and acting are often a unified concept.

Performances are September 18 to 21 at Joyce SoHo, 155 Mercer Street (Between Houston and Prince), Manhattan. The schedule is Thursday through Saturday at 8:00 pm; Sunday at 3:00 pm. There will be a post-performance discussion Thursday, September 18. The piece is presented by Garnica LEIMAY (www.Leimayactslab.org) in association with Joyce SoHo (www.joyce.org). Tickets are $20 general admission; $15 seniors and students. The box office number is (212) 352-3101 and online ticketing available at www.joyce.org.