MOVING PEOPLE: Vangeline on the Impact Of Watching "Flashdance," Penning Her First Book, And How She Is Carrying Butoh into the 21st Century




Vangeline is the artistic director of the Vangeline Theater/New York Butoh Institute, a dance company rooted in the tradition of Japanese butoh while carrying it into the twenty-first century. The 2018 NYFA/NYSCA Artist Fellow in Choreography for Elsewhere also pioneered the award-winning, 13-year running program The Dream a Dream Project, which brings butoh dance to incarcerated men and women at correctional facilities across New York State. In most recent news, Vangeline has been commissioned by triple Grammy Award-winning artists Esperanza Spalding, Skrillex, and David J. (Bauhaus) and authored Butoh: Cradling Empty Space, which explores the intersection of butoh and neuroscience. Her work is the subject of CNN’s Great Big Story: "Learning to Dance with your Demons" and "Dance of Darkness."


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An AUDIENCE REVIEW of Vangeline Theater at HOWL! FESTIVAL from October 2011

A Day in the Life of Vangeline Theater from February 2014

Left portrait: Yi-Chun Wu

Right portrait: Michael Blase

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Published on January 5, 2021
Photo: Matthew Placek


Butoh first entered my life by means of _____________.


Prior to discovering butoh, I was ___________.

a jazz dancer/gogo dancer/vaudeville and burlesque performer 


My childhood was ___________.

totally immersed in nature in Burgundy, France, and in books


Adulthood is ___________.

having the courage to forge your own path and trust your intuition against accepted norms


An event that transformed my life, dance-related or not, was ___________.

seeing the movie Flashdance. I started taking dance classes because of it


A truly good day in my books includes ___________.

sharing the joy and power of dance with others and being in my center


___________ are overrated.



___________ is underrated.



My favorite kind of apparel to move in is ___________.

loose and comfortable, so the air between my skin and the garment can move me.


A personal challenge I face is ___________.

my love of challenges


My personal motto is ___________.

“If it does not work the first time, try again!"


The New York Butoh Institute carries Japanese butoh into the twenty-first century by ___________.

being inclusive of butoh dancers from all over the world, shining a light on gender inequality, focusing on the work of LGBTQ artists, reaching out to vulnerable populations including the incarcerated, and turning to science to understand butoh in all of its complexity while honoring the Japanese lineage. One hand reaches out to the past and the other to the future. Butoh is found in the middle.


The New York butoh scene ___________.

is constantly changing. Right now, after Covid, it has fluidly morphed into a world digital scene


What most people don’t know about “The Dream a Dream Project”, which brings butoh to correctional facilities across New York State, is ___________.

that it took three years of rejection for me to get my foot in the door


Working with SKRILLEX was ___________.

a magical moment where I was flown to Los Angeles to perform an intimate piece one-on-one for him on his birthday



I knew I wanted to write "Butoh: Cradling Empty Space" when ___________.

I was asked to write a short essay about butoh in 5000 words and felt that I could not adequately write about the subject in a short format


Neuroscience is to butoh as __________ is to __________.

the microscope

the living cell


Outside of dance, my greatest pleasures include ___________.

walking in nature and swimming in the ocean. I also love creating pieces with unique soundscapes, lighting, costumes and storylines. I love the creative process and dreaming something into existence



The first city/country I want to visit when traveling is permissible again is ___________.

anywhere! Sometimes I think I love traveling more (being in transit) than arriving someplace in particular


I am looking forward to ___________ 2021.

continuing to be adaptable

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