The Heart's Desire

Cafe Reason Butoh Dance Theatre

and Anne L Ryan  present

The Heart's Desire   Original and eccentric physical theatre, combining butoh dance with an extraordinary vocal landscape.

Premiere 13th and 14th June, 8.00pm 

The Old Fire Station, George Street, OX1 2AQ    

The Heart's Desire - video highlights of live performance

Inspired by The Lady and the Unicorn—the six fascinating medieval tapestries displayed in the Cluny Museum, Paris—The Heart's Desire combines voice and movement to present an original, quirky and playful exploration of the senses and their role in our lives. Café Reason Butoh Dance Theatre and voice artist Anne L Ryan join forces to create a unique piece of physical theatre. This seven-minute video offers highlights from the live performances at the Old Fire Station theatre in Oxford on 13 and 14 June 2014.

“Mesmerising, sensuous, resonant” (Audience feedback)

The Ashmolean Museum - August 2013 -  video of work in progress

Inspired by the intriguing medieval tapestries The Lady and the Unicorn, The Heart's Desire uses both voice and movement to present a quirky and playful exploration of our five senses - taste, touch, smell, hearing, and sight - and their rôle in our lives. Café Reason Butoh Dance Theatre and voice artist Anne L Ryan join forces to create a highly original piece of physical theatre.

The Heart's Desire reveals a woman (“The Lady”) searching for meaning and balance in her life, moving between the sensory, material world of the Lion and the spiritual realm of the Unicorn to find her one, true desire. Butoh, with its intense, mysterious quality, is an ideal medium to convey the psychological landscape of The Lady’s quest. 

By combining butoh with a vocal score the performers dissolve the boundary between these art forms. Voice is rarely used in butoh, so adding it brings a surprising and robust dimension to the silent worlds of both butoh and The Lady and The Unicorn tapestries. There are no words. The Heart's Desire is a playful and intriguing audience experience that captures life's grotesquerie, beauty, and humour in equal measure.

This major new work, by a dance company with an established history of exciting performance, is a collaboration with – and the inspiration of – voice artist Anne L Ryan. The score is mixture of original vocal music and found sounds which have been devised alongside the movement. The music score will be performed live by Anne and other musicians. 

The Heart's Desire takes as its source the six 15th-century Flemish tapestries 'La Dame à la Licorne’ (The Lady and the Unicorn), on display in the Cluny Museum, Paris. Each of the first five tapestries is thought to depict one of the senses – taste, touch, smell, hearing, and sight. The sixth tapestry bears an enigmatic inscription ‘À Mon Seul Désir’ (most often translated as To My One Desire). Its meaning is much debated and various interpretations have been put forward as to what the image represents. Is it the assertion of free will, the renunciation of worldly passions, or perhaps an internal, sixth sense – that of ‘understanding’?

Talking about what inspired her, Anne says: “When I stood in front of the huge tapestries of The Lady and the Unicorn I was awestruck. They were powerful in size and meaning. I looked at the woman and wondered what her quandary was. I wanted to explore it in a performance piece. I had the idea that the performers could do this using all the senses.”

Ana Barbour, one of the Café Reason company talks about the development of The Heart’s Desire: “As dancers it has been a huge challenge to use our voices. For Anne this was a central feature of her proposed project. There is always the risk that by using both voice and movement we weaken both, but we hope we have found places where the combination creates a new and stronger experience for performers and audience alike.” 

Café Reason Butoh Dance Theatre is an experimental performance group specializing in butoh, the iconoclastic dance form that originated in post-war Japan. Based in Oxford, the company is the only permanent butoh company in the UK outside London, and has achieved a fine reputation for its innovative theatre, site-specific, and improvised performances. [Café Reason] achieve the miracle of mixing the mystery and symbolism on which butoh feeds with lightness, energy and humour.