Hello Maya(n)s, Grotesques (Bacons), Walls, Cats, Bulls,
Puppets, Air, and Light,
Cost: free (we're all students and we're all teachers) or ~$2 for space
Butoh on the Internet:
Embodying The Spirit ... simultaneously uncovering and creating the body through the power of the mind. Recognizing the body as carrier of ancient history and the consciousness of our cellular body, we seek an interweaving and balancing of the universal and individual selves. The body is deconstructed to reveal the universal self and expose our primal roots through heightening the elemental or nature body after which the self is recreated in a revitalized journey of individuation.
The history of the physical body, in both its universal and individual aspects, consists of its developmental journey. We regain our fetal self by experiencing our body as countless growing and shrinking cells within one cell, and by exploring developmental patterning. This "breath sack" becomes saturated by water until the body becomes a "water sack". We continue to transform from one nature element to another through awareness of the flow of breath and energy…to earth, to stone, to air, to water…recognizing the changing density and texture of the cells, and begin to explore the balance of elemental forces inside and surrounding the body sack. As we turn our attention to gravity, we begin to work with the "hanging body"--the body that is suspended and moved by invisible strings. The layering process continues with the addition of nature and human-constructed imagery (through words and pictures), as we move from chaos to form.
Butoh's characteristic imagery of the grotesquely-deformed body presents an outlook that repudiates the Western sense of aestheticism and that has opened new possibilities of physical expression.
Hijikata's ... basic idea was that the body's animating spirit metamorphoses into other existences, leaving the empty physical shell to respond to place and environment.
A paradox in Hijikata's Butoh starts from a renunciation of the ego. Reaching the stage of a "Butoh body" only means that a dancer is ready to dance Butoh. Butoh is an individual art without universal form; each Butoh dancer must find his or her own form of life.
Butoh Book on the Internet
Towards the Bowels of the Earth: Butoh Writhing in
by Paul Roquet, 2003.
Copyright 2003 by Paul Roquet
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
The roots of the butoh flower are just as important as the blossom, and nothing is ignored. This is the built-in ecology of butoh. All that rises must fall to the earth. All that is built will be destroyed. With this understanding the dance does not seek to control nature. Butoh is humble. Butoh training techniques strive to remove the will of the dancer entirely to create movement in total union with the environment. Butoh is what happens to dancing when the rational mind stays out of the way.In butoh one must become what is danced. Instead of applying an image onto the body from the outside, butoh works from the inside out. When dancing a flower, it is of no consequence if the dancer looks like a flower to the spectator, rather, the dancer must feel like a flower, and let this feeling lead the movement. Every gesture is drawn from a body consumed by the flower’s perspective. To allow this to happen the dancer begins with an empty form, a body free from likes, dislikes, and habitual movements. This is the dead body of butoh.
We practiced feeling energy come up from the ground into each part of the body, bit by bit, until we were standing straight up reaching for the sky, then POOF, all the energy vanished and we crashed limply back to the floor.
oscillation between form and rejection of codification
Eventually I realized that this
oscillation itself is part of what makes butoh so interesting. The genre stubbornly
refuses to solidify into something solid, but it never quite breaks up completely
either. Attempting to create a codified dance technique to erase all codification in the body is a paradoxical task. Ever since Hijikata established a distinct technique and aesthetic, butoh artists have struggled with the danger of slipping into pure aesthetic form and losing touch with butoh’s initial rebellious spirit. All butoh practice contains this creative tension between codification and rebellion.
the body being danced, not dancing.
In the more theoretical works on butoh, non-Japanese authors often fall prey to one of two overgeneralizations: either they try to explain butoh as ‘Japanese,’ or they ignore the dance’s Japanese roots and emphasize butoh’s universality. In the first group, authors polarize their analysis along the lines of national culture in an attempt to anthropologically understand butoh as a “Japanese” art form. At its extreme, this approach essentializes differences between Japan and ‘the West,’ and aims to understand butoh’s uniqueness in terms of this east-west binary. These writers ignore or downplay Hijikata’s antagonistic relationship to organized religion and the institutionalized theatre of noh and kabuki, and instead employ Buddhist ideas and the concepts of traditional Japanese aesthetics to explain butoh practice.
Butô is like poetry in that it, in its very essence, resists the substitutive function in which words are used to express some thing.
After Anma, Hijikata began to weave a detailed examination of the human body into his theatrical spectacle. He became convinced that social conditioning contaminates the body, and devised ways to work with the body and body memory in order to eradicate this conditioning. Kurihara writes: Hijikata believed the human body becomes domesticated – trained to function within specific patterns – beginning the moment we are born. For example, we grasp an object automatically, without thinking about which muscles to move and how to move them. We walk by placing one leg in front of the other, without thinking which one should come first, which muscle to move, when, how, and where. This unconscious ability for functional movement and muscle coordination is learned in infancy. Hijikata believed that for his dance to be successful, these deeply imbedded patterns had to be destroyed (Kurihara 1997, 98). Sometimes this investigation became an overt presence onstage, as in the Bara-Iro Dansu (Rose-Colored Dance, 1965), which featured a stage covered with the diagrams and charts of Chinese Medicine, with the dancers’ skin painted as if it was peeled back to reveal the internal organs (Holborn, 12).
the body is not a means but an end, not to be used to transmit ideas, but on the contrary, to question, to rethink, to recreate.
searched for a way to regress in time towards the unsocialized life of childhood. Hijikata internalized his rediscovery of femininity.
“because they are not considered to be fully apt persons in society, women, children, physically or mentally handicapped people are liminal; their bodies and minds are not fully molded into the sensorial and perceptual culture of society”
Hijikata’s concern over the socialized body holds interesting parallels to
feminist theory and gender studies. Feminist literature, perhaps more than any
other academic discipline, emphasizes the body as a site of both oppression and
resistance to culturally constructed identities. Like Hijikata, some feminist scholars
find a recovery from disembodied alienation must first begin with a deconstruction
of the culturally-defined body.
Here is an example of butoh-fu from Waguri’s CD-ROM collection of notes on Hijikata’s work, Butoh-fu Kaden:
YOU LIVE BECAUSE INSECTS EAT YOU
A person is buried in a wall. He becomes an
insect that dances on a thin sheet of paper. it
makes rustling noises, trying to hold falling particles.
The insect then becomes a person, so
fragile that he could crumble with the slightest
touch, who is wandering around. (quoted in
Each image is taken into the body and given full expression. The dance becomes more complex as the images pile up on top of one another.
Hijikata beat a small drum and spit out a stream of butoh-fu for Ashikawa to dance.
[sac, skeleton, muscles, organs, ; organs and brain, heart in head, brain passing through your duodenum, through your rectum.]
Waguri Yukio, an earlier disciple of Hijikata, published his notes on Hijikata’s methods in the bilingual CD-ROMButoh-fu Kaden, revealing Hijikata’s butoh-fu to the public for the first time.
The latest incarnation of butoh in California is “butoh protest” - using butoh tactics and aesthetics as a form of civil disobedience. Recently, Corpus Delicti planned an anti-war butoh protest in downtown Los Angeles, gathering 20 to 100 individuals to cover themselves in white paint and tattered gauze and march in a slow procession during rush hour traffic.