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  • Dance
  • NL premiere

Unbearable Darkness

Sat 1 June 2024 20:00
Stadsschouwburg Grote Zaal
60 min
Japanese (English & Dutch subtitles)
€25,50 / €18,-
Performing speculations, Non-western, New technologies
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This performance features flickering lights, loud and high-pitched music, smoke effects, and explicit animated nudity.

In this paranormal choreography experience, Choy Ka Fai combines the digital and artificial with the spiritual. The dancer’s living body, digital extended reality and shamanistic gestures will bring a spectral presence to the stage of one of the biggest figures of Butoh dance, right here in Utrecht!


Since the globalization of Japanese Butoh dance in the 1970s, it has expanded into various forms such as cultural assimilation, spiritual cultivation and performative exorcism. For Choy Ka Fai, Butoh represents “a rebellion against western dance culture and a search for a new form of choreographic expressions designed for the Asian body.” The artist describes Butoh as “essentially an attitude” and is interested in it as a form of revolt and a way to question our present realities.

Unbearable Darkness investigates the heritage of Japanese Butoh, inquiring into its relevance and potential. The research traces the life and possible afterlives of one of the founders of Butoh – Tatsumi Hijikata. In his outrageous pursuit Choy went to great lengths, even interviewing Hijikata’s spirit through an itako (Japanese shaman) and inviting him to collaborate in the creation of the piece.

Unbearable Darkness proposes a cinematic and paranormal dance experience. What is humanly impossible, yet easy for a ghost? Can we speculate on a post-human choreographic future that transcends beyond the worlds of the spiritual, the paranormal and virtuality?


“‘Unbearable Darkness’, the closing performance of the SPRING Utrecht performance festival, is the product of a – to say the least – unique collaboration. Choy Ka Fai created the choreography together with the spirit of butoh legend Tatsumi Hijikata.” Read the full interview here.


In Theaterkrant Neil van der Linden wrote about Unbearable Darkness: “Choy ka fai confuses audiences with collaboration with late butō legend”. Read the full review here.

Topic Talk

Choy Ka Fai is taking part in the Topic Talk Ownership & )De)colonial practices on May 31 from 15:30 tot 16:30 in Theater Kikker.

"Unbearable Darkness is where the spiritual, cultural and technological collide to conjure a unique, multi-modal experience that is part performance, part film and part paranormal dance. (…) Floating from life to death and back again, Unbearable Darkness traverses the humour, agony and ecstasy of human experience"

Johanna Bear, Runway Journal



Choy Ka Fai


Concept, Documentary and Direction – Choy Ka Fai

Choreographic Presence and Paranormal Performance – Tatsumi Hijikata

Dramaturgy – Tang Fu Kuen

Research, Vocal and Performance – Tomoko Inoue

Motion Capture and Performance – Yurika S. Yamamoto

Dance Engineering – Neji Pijin

Visual Design and Technology – Brandon Tay

Music – Raffael Seyfried

Costume Design – Rie Usui

Lighting Design and Technical Direction – Ray Tseng

Tour Manager – Tammo Walter

Company Manager – Mara Nedelcu


Co-produced by tanzhaus nrw and Kyoto Experiment. With support from Kunststiftung NRW Germany, the NATIONALES PERFORMANCE NETZ Coproduction Fund for Dance, which is funded by the German Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media.

For tanzhaus nrw this commission is part of MOCCA – Motion Capturing Creative Area, a project by Hochschule Düsseldorf, Fachbereich Medien, LAVAlabs, Velamed GmbH and tanzhaus nrw, supported by EFRE.

The research process is supported by TPAM – Performing Arts Meeting in Yokohama, The Saison Foundation, The Japan Foundation Asia Center and Hijikata Tatsumi Archive at Keio University Art Center.


Photo credits – Katja Illner

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