Sankai Juku bring the esoteric dance of butoh to The Granada

Butoh, the post-war Japanese dance style that celebrates slow, methodical movement, rarely comes to Santa Barbara, and so the crowds that turned out for Sankai Juku’s appearance at The Granada Thursday night seemed larger than usual for such an esoteric experience. For those who stuck with it, the all-male company’s work, “Tobari — As if in an Inexhaustible Flux” paid off in surprising ways.

A life cycle in a way, the seven acts of the work took us through nothingness, creation, life, death and back into nothingness. As the program explained, “Tobari” is a Japanese word meaning veil, physically and metaphorically, a veil between day and night, or life and death. But it also described the backdrop, a simple but absolutely mesmerizing wall of stars in an inky blackness. Stared at long enough — and butoh encourages and requires lots of staring — the stars did seem to twinkle and move.

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