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The acclaimed Japanese dance troupe Sankai Juku last appeared in Washington in 1984. Ankoko butoh (“dance of utter darkness”) originated in the 1960s and was art of resistance in the wake of U.S. bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The dance taps into the deepest recesses of the psyche with an unsettling, hypnotic beauty and austerity. Those who witnessed Sankai Juku’s stunning outdoor performance, in which nearly naked dancers painted white hung off the side of the National Theatre building, still speak of it with awe-tinged voices. The group discontinued the outdoor performances when a dancer fell to his death a year later, canceling its U.S. tour. It is a rare treat to have the company back in Washington after more than 10 years. There is something revolutionary about the new piece, Hiyomeki (“fontanelle”). It falls outside of any shorthand definition of butoh (oh, the dancers are covered in white powder, they move really slowly, and they contort their bodies) yet seems to embody the essence of this esoteric dance form. The choreography contains tremendous symmetry and geometry. The dancers interrupt the graceful, meditative energy with unexpected sharp moves as they circle around a huge silver disk lined with sand. In his solo, choreographer Ushio Amagatsu’s sinuous body sways, his hips follow, and he unfurls his fingers like a flamenco dancer before twisting into an awkward side bend. Part of butoh’s power is the way it resonates with viewers long after the performance has ended, staining the mind with brilliant white images. At 8 p.m. at George Washington University’s Lisner Auditorium, 21st and H Sts. NW. $25-$40. (202) 785-9727. (Holly Bass)

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