Two of a kind
Boys into Butoh team up.
In the Wicker Park loft they rent for rehearsals, two men warm up in unison without saying a word. Andy Braddock, 26, and Adam Rose, 27, execute a brutal, nonstop sequence of high kicks, lunges, push-ups and squats near a wall of windows open to the rush of passing Blue Line trains and humid 90-degree air. Soaked in sweat, their bare backs red from doing crunches shirtless on the wood floor, they then run twice through the first half of their new work Communist Boys/Fascist Girls, stopping only to review themselves on video, noting to each other what still needs work.
Although both dancers are Ohio natives who moved to Chicago within the last four years, they didn’t meet until Ginger Krebs cast them in Rehearsals for Becoming Gods (a TOC Best of 2009 pick). Neither has worked long in the field: Braddock’s first dance class came the last semester of his senior year at Kenyon College, and although Rose has choreographed 17 works in as many months, he studied music and writing at Antioch and Ohio State, not trying dance until he was 22.
After their two-hour rehearsal, the unsurprisingly skinny duo walks down Milwaukee Avenue to Eat First #2 Chinese Restaurant and cools off with giant tapioca smoothies. The intense creative process of Boys/Girls (the latter half is performed in drag) began in April, they explain, under Rose’s direction and the aegis of his company, Antibody Dance.
One of the songs driving their warm-up was a cover of Austrian band Opus’s 1984 hit “Live Is Life” by an oft-misunderstood industrial group. “I’ve been listening to Laibach for a couple of years now,” Rose says, “wondering how I could relate [their music] to my dance work, and [Boys/Girls]”—he laughs—“is kind of what happened.” Although each section in performance will have an original score, by Charles Mahaffee and Natalie Murillo, respectively, Boys/Girls strikes the same subversive chords that have classified the Slovenian band as vanguard political art.
Boys’ movements are no less strenuous and repetitive than the warm-up—and include the pair kicking each other hard in the kidneys. When asked where the violence comes from, Braddock and Rose list the following like ingredients in a recipe: body-negative currents in Western religion and thought, a “Magical Formula of Communist Yoga” they dreamed up based on Egyptian mythology’s twin sets Seth/Osiris and Isis/Nephthys, frames of mind Rose terms “body-as-machine” and “body-as-object,” and a Marx-Nietzsche dialectic proposed in a 1996 tome by Cornell University professor Geoff Waite called Nietzsche’s Corps/e: Aesthetics, Politics, Prophecy, or, the Spectacular Technoculture of Everyday Life. Occultism and Tibetan chanting are also part of the palette, in an admittedly offhand way. “It’s about borrowing, imitation, trying things to see if they have any effect…with a skeptical attitude,” Rose says.
Each speaks far less offhandedly of his respect for the Butoh tradition, a Japanese-born modern-dance form that’s a touchstone of Krebs’s. “When I first came to Chicago,” Rose recalls, “I was doing something like satanic modern-dance, I guess. Ginger’s work is a really intelligent response to Butoh as a conceptual dance form.” Braddock sips his honeydew smoothie and adds, “Ginger’s developed a model for applying the Butoh philosophy [to contemporary concerns] and using it as a method to access things.” While Braddock and Rose’s movements are generally quicker and more architectural than the slow-burning grind of a Butoh work, the depth of embodiment is comparable. Rose feels some merely imitate the technique at a superficial level. “Butoh is about conflict, not style,” he says.
Find details about Braddock and Rose’s upcoming performances at antibodydance.org.