International Culture Lab

is a performing arts organization dedicated to providing opportunities for artists from across the world to explore contemporary issues through jointly created projects.

We believe that art has a responsibility to contextualize and promote the diversity of cultures and to encourage, celebrate and learn from their differences. To that end, ICL collaborates with artists from other countries to explore our shared human condition.

What happens when Butoh meets cabaret, burlesque, and sideshow...
when the sacred meets the profane...
when ceremony meets performance...


For the past three years, in affiliation with Coney Island USA (CIUSA) and through intensive workshops with Diego Piñón's Body Ritual Movement/Butoh Rtual Mexicano (BRM), ICL has been presenting a site-specific event that explores this hybrid aesthetic.

THE CONEY ISLAND RITUAL CABARET FESTIVAL will take place 3 nights, March 23--25, 2018 on the Main Stage at Coney Island USA, Surf Avenue at 12th Street.

Cabaret, burlesque, vaudeville, and circus sideshow have had a long and storied history in Coney Island. And for over three decades now, ICL has endeavored to support CIUSA in meeting its mission: "Preserving and championing a set of uniquely American visual and performing art forms, we seek to create an international forum for cultural preservation and discourse, and where Coney Island represents these impulses, we strive to make it once again a center for live art and entrepreneurial spirit." We have now undertaken to merge the two companies' respective focal points in a powerful new way.

ICL's exploration of physical theatre began in 2000 with its collaboration with Argentine physical theatre ensembles El Rayo Misterioso and Willaldea. There ICL produced its first Butoh-influenced theatre performance, Ubu Macbeth.

This work only whetted ICL's appetite and subsequent years were spent continuing our study of Butoh with masters Diego Piñón, Atsushi Takenouchi, Yukio Waguri, Akira Kasai, Su-en, Yumiko Yoshioka, and others. In 2005 and 2007, ICL helped produce and facilitate the CAVE New York Butoh Festivals. And in 2006 we produced FridgeFest in Philadelphia, debuting our Butoh-based production Diva Divan, which was reimagined and restaged in 2014 through workshops and performances with Margo Korableva Performance Theatre in Tbilisi, Georgia.

The NYC/Tbilisi exploration then led to the ICL and CIUSA production of The Coney Island Butoh and Theatre Festival in March 2016, and the Coney Island Butoh and Beyond Festival in March 2017. March 2018's Coney Island Ritual Cabaret Festival marks our third year in Coney Island with Diego probing the fantastical dancing partnership of ritual and entertainment.

Our exploration is being informed by the roots of Butoh, where its co-founder, Tatsumi Hijikata, invented the avant garde dance form by combining elements of high- and low-art performances. During the day, Hijikata trained the dancers in exercises and techniques that would become Ankoku Butoh. At night they would begin to experiment with bringing their exploration into the competitive marketplace of cabaret/burlesque, earning them a reputation of being 'weird' and 'out there.' One story has Hijikata leading his dancers up a mountain for a visit with a blind shaman. He then developed exercises asking his dancers to dance and see as the blind shaman would.