Dance Review: Corpus Null by Axis

Darkly dancing Butoh, a ritual from torment to relief.
‘Corpus’ refers to ‘body’ as in human bodies, animal bodies, planetary body or the main part of a body or organ, as well as a reference to a corporate body. The total amount of money invested  in a scheme is a corpus, and a set of laws and legal facts is a corpus too. Null is to have no legal or binding force, not valid, no value or be non-existent, to be void and amount to zero. There’s many meanings; it’s a play on words and refers to both kinds of bodies and avoids both intentionally, (or perhaps one body cancels the other and perhaps also refers to a ‘body without organs’ (Deleuze and Guatarri). Spliced together, Corpus Null is also a good title for a dance performance

Since 2011, Anywhere Theatre Festival Brisbane has provided a platform for artists to step away from the fringe and perform ‘anywhere’. Over 500 independent artist from Noosa, Sunshine Coast and Brisbane have been invited to showcase their work.

One of this year’s performances was Corpus Null by AXIS, a 45 minute immersion in the art of Butoh, a Japanese dance theatre discipline that utilises a diverse range of movement to express the artists’ internal self. This spellbinding piece engaged from the onset. It’s dark and intensely emotional, with a psychological edge. The Elements Collective venue provided a simple setting, with no props, and polished floor boards as a clean canvas. Floor lighting added to the austere aesthetic.
From the beginning the soundscape by Paul Young plunged the audience into a deep, trance like atmosphere that developed into industrial noise: a seamless response to the performers’ movement and expression.
Saara Roppola (Director/Choreographer) started off in super slow motion with her back to us, before turning to face the audience with purposefully slow intentional steps She’s soon joined by fellow Butoh performers (Cieon Hilton, Rufio Max, El Pantaleon and Alana Breckelmans), with the choreography seemingly sweeping them into one entity.


The work is a homage to the late Master Masaki Iwana, Roppolas’ teacher as it happens. Collectively the team moved as one psyche as they tried to register a move from pain into relief. The grasping nature of their emotional response ultimately gave way to attempts to discipline the mind and control the writhing contortions.
Basic costumes of grey tank tops and shorts did not allow for distraction, so the the viewer was left to focus on movement alone: through the performers’ torment and struggle for evolution. From beginning to end of the ritual dance. one feels entirely in their grip.

Towards the end each dancer broke off to create a signature character piece, an orb of continuous movement.  The effect was so captivating, the audience was left in a stunned silence. 

4 out of 5 stars: ★★★★

Corpus Null by Axis

Anywhere Theatre Festival 2021
Elements Collective
Director Choreographer – Saara Ropploa
Sound Design – Paul Young
Fortitude Valley, Brisbane
8-23 May 2021


Sally Peters
About the Author
Sally Peters is a freelance writer currently residing in Brisbane.