Manual Ghosts of Pre-Modernity: Butoh and the Avant-Garde

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Ghosts of Premodernity: Butoh and the Avant-Garde
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Hijikata and Ohno, studied with proponents of German Expressionism — as expressionist creativity probing a collective unconscious spread to Japan and other countries. Eguchi Takaya who studied with Mary Wigman imported the creative experiments and developmental physical techniques of Neue Tanz. Ohno studied with Ishii in and Eguchi in , and Hijikata first studied German-style modern dance as a young man in rural Akita under Masumura Katsuko, a student of Eguchi. Later he studied with Ando Mitsuko a disciple of Eguchi. Ohno and Hijikata met through Ando sometime between and Cultural assimilation was not a one-way street, however.

Before Japanese dancers began to study the emerging modern dance abroad, the expressively stylized and much admired Japanese Ukiyo-e woodblock. Aesthetic exchange between Japan and the West developed from world trade and travel after Japan opened its doors to foreigners in at the end of the Edo period and fifteen generations of Tokugawa Shoguns during this period from about to Ukiyo-e color prints, originating in the latter half of the seventeenth century and developing throughout the Edo period, had become wildly fashionable in Europe and the United States by the late nineteenth century and in the early twentieth century.

Scholars and collectors became connoisseurs. Long before the emergence of stylized emotional dancing in German expressionism and butoh, Ukiyo-e displayed distorted and ferocious dancing figures in a kind of aragoto dance theater painting if you will. Butoh, likewise, cultivates stooped and bow-legged postures, wild sweeps of movement, and wriggling contours. At the same time, she emphasized the bond between form and expression in classes that Sondra Fraleigh took with her from through Wigman, a key teacher of early pioneers in Japanese modern dance, was herself influenced by Eastern aesthetics.

Dance in the United States during the first decade of the twentieth century also incorporated the East — often through trite Oriental imitations in ballet, the interpretive dance of the Denishawn School, and Delsarte Orientalism. The dance world seemed intoxicated with exotic and Oriental stereotypes, especially the Ballets Russes. Butoh presents special challenges in this regard.

It is very expressive, but in a unique postmodern way. Butoh dancers contrast these external complications with simple gestures of striving and longing, or minimize theatrical show with diminutive kinaesthetic awakenings that grow and quickly fade before maturing.

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At the other extreme, dancers may pause suddenly in silence and shift to embryonic floating, like Ohno Kazuo, or develop eternally slow and grounded walking, falling down lightly without making a sound, seeming empty, like Ashikawa Yoko. His butoh includes inspiration from the dance of Isadora Duncan and Mary Wigman, and he also uses eurythmy, a dance like form of body training founded by the mystic philosopher Rudolph Steiner in that he studied in Germany in Some current butoh dancers like Yamada Setsuko even incorporate the sheer lightness of ballet and the sculpting of modern dance in their butoh, blending these with the lowered center of gravity found in tai chi.

Fraleigh provides full descriptions of the works of the foregoing artists. Indeed, butoh draws the witness into an emotional space through its reach into the dark soul. Still more, through its ability to transform negatives into positives, it empties a place in the mind for spiritual recognition. Butoh has an improvisatory basis, but it also cultivates structured choreography with a significant change from early expressionism.

Like characters in calligraphy, butoh characters are signs and transparencies. Life in a speck of dust, dance in a drop of sweat: butoh has taken surprising directions. Wet with the sweat of dare, the dancer makes her way through the plastic, barely breathing, carrying a knife in her pocket just in case : danger, dance, or game of suffocation? Non-Japanese butoh artists also perform internationally. He died of liver disease at the age of fifty-seven, having dedicated his life to dance. He had created not only a new form of dance, but also a wide circle of artistic associates with whom he enjoyed a lively social life, and he had inspired a generation of students who remained fiercely dedicated to him.

Hijikata first became exposed to Western culture at age eighteen when he began studying Neue Tanz, the German dance movement that began early in the twentieth century with the work of Laban and Wigman among others. Eventually, he came into contact with Western surrealist literature and poetry and the techniques of classical ballet. Through his discontent with ballet, he began to search for his own style of expression. She sees that Japanese artists have experienced two stages since then, first turning to the West for new models, then facing East, looking back into their own identity 38— In this regard Hijikata was no exception.

He followed in the wake of many Japanese artists after the Meiji period, but an ancestral path marked his search for originality. Looking back, Hijikata embodied the pain of his childhood and connected with his Japanese heritage. Japan was forced into the modern era in when Admiral Commodore Mathew C. It reached a high point in the s. This was also a time of struggle over the renewal of the US—Japan Security Treaty forged at the end of the war.

Inevitably, the ways of the West were questioned in Japan. In the fields of theater and dance, artists sought to rescue the Japanese body from Western dualism. Thus his seminal work — Revolt of the Flesh — initialing Ankoku Butoh — darkness dance. Hijikata Tatsumi born Yoneyama Kunio was the sixth son and tenth child of eleven. His parents were farmers and owned a buckwheat noodle soba shop. Hijikata himself pointed out the relationship between his birthplace of Akita and Ankoku Butoh — his dance of utter darkness. The folded-up legs of infants kept in rice preservers, Hijikata said, inspired his butoh.

He also based his public image on his poor-farmer family background, but his father was in fact the son of a village mayor, and Hijikata sometimes wore Western clothes. What I learned from those toddlers has greatly influenced my body. Hijikata reflects on human symbiosis and remembrance of place.

But we should also notice that his Tohoku is emblematic, a primal landscape of Japan that is now lost. Eguchi and his wife Miya Misako, both from Tohoku region, studied with Wigman from to , and returned as influential teachers of Neue Tanz. When she told me it was German dance, I immediately took steps to become a disciple.

Hijikata was considerably affected by seeing the Hitler Jugend Youth marching during a tour of Japan. He found the blond boys in uniforms impressive, and feared his female schoolmates might be kidnapped by those grand and orderly young boys. Here we sense the climate of the pre-war military aesthetic in Japan and Europe seen in marching. Wearing a mask of her own face made by Japanese Noh mask maker Victor Magito, Wigman sat and turned in a hunched-over minimal pattern, pounding the floor percussively with her feet, while her hands morphed from tense claws to delicate flutters grazing the still mask.

Modern dance grew throughout the twentieth century as a discovery form of dance focusing on creative and personal resources in contrast to the stylizations of classical ballet. Ishii, Eguchi, and others who studied in Europe and America in the second and third decades of the twentieth century introduced it to Japan, as we saw. In a country where community takes precedence over the individual, his breakthrough inventiveness is all the more amazing.

During a visit to Tokyo in —, the twenty-one-year-old Hijikata saw a dance recital given by Ohno Kazuo at Kanda Kodo Kyoritsu Hall that moved him profoundly. Cutting the air again and again with his chin, he made a lasting impression on me. For years this drug dance stayed in my memory. That dance has now been transformed into a deadly poison, and one spoonful of it contains all that is needed to paralyze me. Ohno, who had studied with modern dancers Eguchi and Ishii early in his life, felt dissatisfied with the established style of dance expression in Japan, and was searching for his own style.

In , Hijikata moved to Tokyo to study dance at the age of twentyfour. He wanted to be a part of the urban art scene, but was in the beginning just a country boy with a quaint dialect adrift in a large city. He and Ohno met through Ando. In his early days in Tokyo, Hijikata copied the fashions he saw in Hollywood movies and wore his hair like his hero James Dean. He gradually assimilated city life through his association with artists and writers as well as prostitutes.

His survival was difficult on the margins of Tokyo society. Although he is not explicit, his writings ever difficult to decode refer to trouble with the police in his early days in Tokyo. In later life, he would operate a nightclub to make ends meet, where members of his company danced nude, and he once again had occasions to dodge the police.

As his work matured, Hijikata let his hair grow long, and achieved a guru status among his followers. During this time he met a group of artists who would later become prominent figures of modern Japanese art — Kawara On, Shinohara Ushio, and the set designer Kanamori Kaoru. He spent time drinking sake with them, and talking about art and theater. Meanwhile, Motofuji Akiko, an accomplished ballet dancer whom Hijikata later married, established her dance school between and In , a year before his first radical butoh, Kinjiki , Yoneyama Kunio took the stage name of Hijikata Tatsumi.

A year after this performance, Hijikata began to further formulate his subversive view of dance. I was completely impotent. All my seeds were cut off. Violence of course had to hit me from without. This was the same year that he choreographed his signature work Revolt of the Flesh as harbinger to Ankoku Butoh. His last performance before beginning to choreograph extensively for others was Summer Storm in ; by then his work had matured considerably and he had established his dance company.

Hijikata named his new form of dance Ankoku Butoh. Meanwhile, she also became a butoh training master and officially the managing director of the Hijikata Tatsumi Memorial Asbestos Studio. After his death, she choreographed Mandara , A letter to Abakanowicz , and Heaven: We Walk on Eternity , combining butoh innovatively with ballet and Neue Tanz in a sweeping style of expression. Motofuji also directed Theoria of Mirrors in and performed together with Ohno Kazuo and Yoshito for the first time in thirty years, furthering possibilities of the butoh form.

At her death, dancers held a memorial performance in honor of Motofuji. It cleared a path by spreading its clothes upon the snow after removing them one by one as in a secret cosmic ceremony. Then it peeled off its skin and laid that upon the path. A whirlwind of snow surrounded it, but the fetus continued, wrapped in this whirlwind. The white bones danced, enveloped by an immaculate cloak.

This dance of the fetus, which moved along as if carried by the whirlwind of snow, seemed to be transparent. Ohno Kazuo in Holborn While Hijikata celebrates the negative in his themes of death and sacrifice, in ugly beauty, and in mud, Ohno also spirals downward, but with a fluid spirituality. This would have been the first of five modern dance recitals Ohno performed in Tokyo. Ohno was born in Hakodate City, Hokkaido, in Upon graduation from the Japan Athletic College, he began working as a physical education teacher at Kanto Gakuin High School, a private Christian school for girls in Yokohama.

His interest in this period was in modern expressionist dance. Even before being drafted into the military, he converted to and became a follower of the Baptist faith influenced by Sakata Tasuke, the principal of Kanto Gakuin High School where he first taught Ohno and Ohno — It takes time to understand and incarnate an idea. Equally important were his beliefs as a non-church pacifist, nearly a decade of experiences in World War II, and the influence of his mother and other defining women in his life.

In he was called up for military service and spent the following nine years in active service in China and New Guinea; his final two years in the military were spent as a prisoner of war in the jungles of New Guinea. Out of eight thousand prisoners he was among the two thousand few who survived. Students acknowledge Ohno as they bask in his presence, and sometimes he performs for them in his wheelchair. Ohno is seen performing in Hakodate tokubetsu koen: Waga haha no oshie tamaishi uta Special Performance in Hakodate: The Song My Mother Taught Me ; Yoshito wheels him up the aisle where a full house greets him, then onto the stage where he continues to live through the sensitive gestures of his spontaneous dance.

Audiences are certainly aware that Ohno will reach his th birthday in , and they celebrate every movement as golden. Ohno and Yoshito have been father-son dance partners for over forty years. This is the same partnering technique still used in Suiren Water Lilies in The audience senses a mutual respect and symbiosis between them. Yoshito — an unassuming butoh hero from the very beginning — is a constant assistant and collaborator in the work of his father and Hijikata. In the last section of the dance, Ohno dances freely. Courtesy Ohno Kazuo Archive.

His dances in the early years before collaboration with Hijikata were about life sei , expressing the feeling of someone who is full of life. Bearing humanity with him, Ohno falls off his feet into another boundless world that takes the audience beyond the floor to a limitless universe Ohno and Ohno Ohno Kazuo in Slater 7. Hijikata's anti-social courage gave birth to the theater dance movement that he called Ankoku Butoh. However, it was Hijikata and Ohno's interactive collaborations that projected butoh into a living dance genre.

Hijikata admired Ohno, and even when directing Ohno's dances treated him with fatherly respect. A good performance is like going to a doctor and getting good medicine. I feel great. Koma: Actually, I think he is always excited like this. In being himself, albeit through the guise of amazing theatricality, Ohno often leaves audiences in tears.

His extraordinary physical gifts and gentle mind, as also his childlike innocence in improvisation, move them deeply. Gestating over long periods and appealing to multinational audiences, his panoramic dances are never arbitrary.

Ohno carried his vision of the flamenco dancer La Argentina with him for fifty years before he danced in her memory. Hijikata carried his dead sister inside his body: A Flamenco dancer possessed Ohno.

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What a pair! Ohno was born to dance, and also a superb actor, able to excavate great depths of emotion through his agile body and compassionate facial expressions. On the historical world stage, he can be compared with Isadora Duncan through the generous spirit of his dance and his power to move audiences. Likewise as a teacher in his studio in Yokohama, Ohno is alive to the moment, mischievous sometimes, and a chameleon; he is butoh morphology personified. But Ohno is more than butoh; he is himself, always. This is clear in his approach to dance when he speaks of his work Admiring La Argentina, voicing his admiration for the real Argentina: The dance of La Argentina invited people to a sea of excitement.

She embodied dance, literature, music, and art, and furthermore she represented love and pain in real life. I simply received all things that moved me as they were, and I try to pass them to you. Ohno in Holborn The very sensitive Ohno, a Christian pacifist, experienced serious pain through his forced participation in the war. Hijikata recognized something of this in Ohno when he saw him dance, sensing his connection. Like the Greek satyrs and comic actors with their harnessed-on exaggerated phalloi Cahill , , , Hijikata, an enormous bronzed erection strapped to his body, belongs to the word of form; Ohno, who can break your heart with longing and hope for an unseen presence, belongs to the world of spirit.

He and Hijikata eventually develop divergent philosophies of form in dance. When you walk, do you think about your feet? Ohno In an interview with Susan Klein, Ohno said that he and Hijikata had personalities on opposite ends of the spectrum Klein 6. The polarized extremes of Ohno and Hijikata released the stunning energy that produced the original Ankoku Butoh.

My dance encounter is with Mankind, an encounter with Life. Ohno in Viala and Sekine The production of Divine marked the beginning of an intense working relationship between Ohno and Hijikata that lasted eight years.

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  8. Yoshito says the hiatus was not out of animosity, and that their work together naturally came to a close in this phase. Each of them went through a period of inner reflection. Then he undertook a three-year groundbreaking project with photographer Hosoe Eikoh. Returning home to look for their common roots in Tohoku, Hijikata and Hosoe sought to capture the spirit of the kamaitachi, literally sickle-weasel, also referring to a cut on the skin caused by a mythical whirlwind that creates a vacuum of air.

    Hosoe, who had lived in northern Tohoku as a child, won the Ministry of Education Arts Encouragement Prize for Kamaitachi , his book of photographs of Hijikata, immortalizing butoh in compelling outdoor portraits of the dancer in the rustic fields Tohoku. Since the late s, Hosoe has been working on a book of photographs of Ohno. Ohno went through an identity crisis filled with self-searching during. The emotional turmoil in these films proved cathartic. He may never have gone back to dancing if he had not had time for exploration, synthesis, and healing. As a young man of about twenty-three, Ohno saw her dance at the Imperial Theater in Tokyo.

    The tango was also one of the favored rhythms of Neue Tanz; Ohno had performed this Latin form in his studies with Miya and Eguchi who popularized the tango in Japan. Barrett, The renaissance that Ohno experienced in his early seventies blossomed into a collaboration with Hijikata from to in which they choreographed dances that could be recreated on stage. In his working relationship with Hijikata, Ohno also encountered death again, not so literally as he had in war, but in the dances of death that Hijikata created.

    That reminds me of my show in Caracas. I was covered in sweat. My body had grown old and I was working like a rickety old car, but I was happy. Is that what we call wearing oneself out for glory? Ohno Kazuo in Slater 8. Achieving world renown at the age of seventy-four, a time when most dancers have long since retired, Ohno became the leading international representative of butoh. While the Tokyo Butoh Festival introduced butoh to the mainstream in Japan, Ohno had already introduced it to the world outside.

    He continued his international tour at this time with performances in Strasbourg, London, Stuttgart, Paris and Stockholm. With Hijikata directing, he created two more. As one of the most significant international butoh performers, Ohno toured throughout Europe, North and South America, Australia and Asia. Ohno Kazuo with Dopfer and Tangerding in conversation Such universals are not limited to time and place, even if their representation often is.

    Ohno embodies the image he dances, not so much symbolizing or representing it. Ever young and old, his body is by now marked and wrinkled by the human affections he communicates. In the stark ecology of the desert there is an absolute relatedness of the rodent to the landscape.

    Ohno in McGee There he encounters the West through the American and British embassies. At home his mother creates an international ambience through her love of Western music, French cooking and literature. We also know that Ohno first encounters dance styles through German expressionism and American modern dance. The butoh he finally exports from Japan has incorporated the multicultural scenes of his life, even as his dancing becomes increasingly more layered through his travels abroad.

    He is furthermore a bridge between modern dance and butoh, moving past them in the end. Nakamura Fumiaki , a butoh critic in his conversation with Yoshito, helps us understand Ohno's dance as beyond modern, beyond butoh. Hijikata nodded in total agreement with me. His dance cannot be called Japanese aging beauty or wabi sabi. Ohno Kazuo has to be lively forever. He has to be modaan. He explains that Ohno has lived through the history of Japanese modern dance represented by Ishii. Baku, Eguchi Takaya and Miya Misako. Hijikata and Yoshito confirm that Ohno embodies the power of life, a vital shigen that all dances have internally.

    Shigen is like a vein of gold ore. The butoh that Hijikata and Ohno initiated proliferates, often in unpredicted ways, as it is studied and practiced around the globe. Writers focus on the historical, political, and economic conditions that provide the context for the emergence of butoh as a reactionary form Klein ; Kurihara Butoh performances have been viewed as psychological expression of consciousness through improvisation rather than technical dance Fisher Joan Laage, an American butoh dancer and scholar, studied the use and meaning of the body in the theatrical performance of butoh Laage Sondra Fraleigh wrote a personal ethnology including accounts of experiences with butoh and Zen in Japan, which includes performance reviews from a philosophical perspective Fraleigh , and her book Dancing Identity examines butoh in context of World War II Fraleigh Recent studies by butoh dancers explore butoh as a method of movement therapy Kasai and Takeuchi , as we take up further in Chapter 4.

    In an ethnographic and sociological approach, Tamah Nakamura looks at butoh as a context for relationship and community building beyond the performance arena Nakamura Butoh performers have taken their own directions. Strongly influenced by Ohno Kazuo, Takenouchi sometimes moves by himself, dancing like a shaman to heal the earth where people have died in great masses. Like many other butoh artists today, he includes elderly people in the fabric of his dances, and especially integrates handicapped people Takenouchi, Interview with Fraleigh, The seeds for this inclusiveness were certainly evident in Hijikata and Ohno.

    Tanaka Min has experimented with communal living also, inviting dancers to live, dance, and work in the Japanese countryside at his Body Weather Farm in Hakushu, Yamanashi Prefecture. The Seiryukai dance group in Fukuoka, Japan is establishing a new forum for butoh dancers to build a sustaining, healing community. Harada Nobuo organized Butoh Seiryukai in Kasai sees that butoh can renew the participant and the society through its relational essence.

    His butoh explorations increase self-awareness and connections between dancers. He teaches that dance can connect us to others and to the past, and that community is more important than individualism. Kasai says that we are not dancing truly if we are not dancing the community body. He reminds us that butoh is dance and not principally an ecological or political movement, but that it also includes all things in nature, not just the human community. The person grows within the community, and through rites that were once the province of magic, can dance toward healing Ibid.

    They come because they hear about butoh, or see a poster and think it looks different. They come searching for something different. The basic grounding and bonding of human energy used to be expressed through community festivals and other community events in which everyone participated.

    These events have changed focus so that a few perform while most watch. Seiryukai offers a space for a kind of community dance festival. Harada reminds us of the early impetus of butoh, dancing like a shaman in his workshops, inspiring magical transformations with his spirit, and not putting theater performance before the local development of community and dance.

    He is a good example of what Hijikata talked about when he said he never wanted butoh to become a commercial success. Developing butoh as therapy, Morita Itto, a butoh performer and practicing psychologist, and Takeuchi Mika, who performs with him, have opened a Takeuchi Mika Butoh Institute in Sapporo, Japan that offers butoh classes and stress reduction techniques through their Butoh Dance Therapy Method.

    Butoh continues to diversify its means from performance to healing, from the Mexican ritual butoh of Diego Pignon to the evolutionary dance theater of Sankai Juku, architecting the pre-history of the body in sandy mystical tones. The dance legacy of Hijikata and Ohno is descendant in its general direction. This chapter introduces the writings and spoken words of Hijikata and Ohno. We will see how their words relate to their lives and dancing — especially as these two men have highly contrasting characters, and their butoh grows out of this very productive difference.

    Whacha doin dancing here for anyway, dumb fuck, course ya get caught,. In it we hear the mysterious. Figure 2. Photograph by Yamaguchi Harahisa. Courtesy Hijikata Tatsumi Archive. Words seemed to spill from the mouth and dance for Hijikata, like the contemporary patter of rappers. Hijikata is a man of many words and dances. His writings are alive with images, embodied nonsequiters, and onomatopoeia, ringing with actions that sound like they feel in the body. Like his dances, raw and unfinished, his writings are somatically derived from the body, and open to interpretation.

    In a more disjointed manner than James Joyce, he lets go streams of consciousness, and the spoken monologues for which he became famous are even more irrational than his writings. Secondly, they probe the preconscious shadowy self. Rather there is a more direct route to imagery for Hijikata, not necessarily archetypal as understood in Western terms, but immediately available at the nexus of body and spirit, as we will later explain through Japanese phenomenology of the body. The work is how to excavate them at the actual site. His dances and writings are equally seditious, entertaining inexplicable shadows.

    I would push back into the shadows the things that come forward too clearly, I would strip away the useless decoration. I do not ask that this be done everywhere, but perhaps we may be allowed at least one mansion where we can turn off the electric lights and see what it is like without them. It was already evident when Tanizaki wrote this in that the Western tendency toward youth and novelty and its glittering technology were becoming more evident in Japan Fraleigh Although Hijikata is a known master of self-concealment and ambiguity, his language expresses his thoughts directly without editing.

    Criminal Dance: The Early Films of Butoh Master Tatsumi Hijikata

    He identifies with homosexuals, festivals, ceremonies, and prisoners because of their lack of purpose in relation to capitalist productivity. Rose-Colored Dance and Ankoku-Butoh must spout blood in the name of the experience of evil. Tragedy must take priority over productivity for him, and his body in its immediate sense of physical danger, is already prepared.

    Sacrifice guides his belief that dancers are the ones who experience surrender with their own bodies in a visceral form. This sacrifice comes in the guise of love and apology: For days I slept holding a chicken and taking care not to eat it. Boyhood hunger is vivid: the chicken my father held was red. This chicken which laid an egg in the green room played a vital part in my initiation into love. I sometimes visited this partner of mine at a poultry shop in Asahaya. I shrieked and eventually foamed at the mouth.

    I apologized to the chicken I held while dancing. Hunger must have been the theme of the universe a: It is also clear from his writing that Hijikata is motivated by altruism and love, specifically the attempt to give voice to those on the margins of society. I am inventing a walk modeled of the present from atop the dark earth where dancing and jumping could not be united. In boyhood the dark earth of Japan was my teacher in various ways of fainting.

    I must bring to the theater that sense of treading. The implication is that one should have to look the enemy in the eye, and cannot distance from killing. He sees them as corpses. This period represents an early stage of his search for a personal ethnology in his art. His physical limitations, curved arms and legs of uneven length, would be challenges for any dancer, but he uses his body and physical.

    Not stopping at this, however, Hijikata steps beyond his obvious limitations, transforming unexpectedly, streaming consciousness from image to image. More than a place or landscape, it is the metaphysical unseen structure that compels his embrace of darkness. In the early spring the wind is something special, blowing over the sloppy, wet mud. I have the feeling there is a knot of wood, somewhere in my lower abdomen stuck there in the mud, that is screaming something. While in the mud, it occurs to me that I could very well end up becoming prey. At the same time that this unbearable feeling surfaces in my body, something strange takes shape in the mud.

    He amuses and talks to her throughout the film; then in the end, disappears into the river holding the statue of Kannon, having morphed by the time of this work from his pose as a surrealist criminal to the figure of the divine fool. At the end, Hijikata rose to infancy; sat up and danced on his deathbed for those closest to him — his dance the beauty of ugliness — his words messages from the dark spot of consciousness. Ohno Yoshito, who visited him in the hospital at the time of his death, says Hijikata told him the only thing he feared was God.

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    5. Although Hijikata never professed a spiritual tradition, his last workshop encouraged students to disperse into Nothingness, a key concept in Buddhism. The butoh that Hijikata stirred in himself and his inheritors shares a Zen Buddhist, surrealist, and Jungian belief in the healing potential of the subconscious mind. Negativism in Butoh, like the nothingness or emptiness of Buddhism, can clear away personal history to allow being itself to shine. Martin Esslin traces relationships through the serious play of the Dada or Dadaist art movement in Europe early in the twentieth century — through German Expressionism — to early Brecht and surrealism.

      And along with Eugene Ionesco, he also notices how the puzzling irrationality in the procedures of the theater of the absurd closely resembles the Japanese Zen koan paradox in its defiance of rational terminus Esslin We do not suggest that butoh resurrects the existentialist theater of the absurd or relates consciously to Zen, but it does contain historical residue. However original, butoh has a memory, kinaesthetic and imagistic, as well as methodological. Butoh relates to surrealism in its improvisatory spirit, its expressiveness, polemics, and eroticism. His manifesto provides a methodological definition of surrealism, as there are also other ways of looking at this complex art movement that we examine throughout this volume.

      Esslin writes that while in Germany the impulse behind dadaism and expressionism had flagged by the middle twenties, and the whole modern movement was swallowed up in the intellectual quick sands of the Nazi period in the s, the line of development continued unbroken in France Ibid. The body has been conceptualized in Buddhist intellectual and spiritual history that far outstrips Western views. He provides a bodyscheme that is Japanese and at the same time comprehensively related to the work of contemporary Western phenomenology. Ichikawa counters Western dualism in his philosophy, employing the phenomenology of Husserl, Sartre, and Merleau-Ponty, and carrying their work further on Eastern grounds.

      Never quite finished, always in the making, words spring from Hijikata in the manner of his dances. At some point, his words distill to text however — as we see in his writings and spoken monologues — just as his butoh-fu are finally embodied in dance. Butoh dancers deconstruct the physical in morphing from image to image and project the body toward nothingness; theirs is not an ethereal escape from the body as in the classical ballet of the West.

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      It is a transformative process that accepts change, just as nature human and non-human is also a study in time and space, decay, death, and regeneration. In our body history, something is hiding in our subconscious, collected in our unconscious body, which will appear in each detail of our expression. Here we can rediscover time with an elasticity, sent by the dead. This is the body without boundaries that is postulated in Eastern metaphysics and is indeed very suspect in materialist cultures.

      This is also the butoh body in its metamorphic essence, incomplete, ongoing and perishing in each step, not an essence that we safely resolve nor an object that we conquer as we might strive to conquer nature, but the body as encompassing spirit and enigma. He claims that our existence itself unifies the spiritual and physical levels. Spirit and mind are nothing but names given to the same reality. The body becomes truly human when the distinction between spirit, mind, and body disappear.

      Thus a high degree of unity expresses our freedom, while mental disorders are characterized by a low degree of unity: When the degree of unity is low and we are controlled by the environment, we have less freedom, we feel the body.

      Nancy Pelosi: An Extremely Stable Genius

      The ultimate situation is that of a corpse. Ichikawa quoted in Ozawa-De Silva Butoh does not express high degrees of unity, as we have seen. Rather the butoh body is porous and suspect. I would like to have a person who has already died die over and over inside my body. I may not know death, but it knows me. I often say that I have a sister living inside my body. When I am absorbed in creating a butoh work, she plucks the darkness from my body and eats more than is needed. When she stands up inside my body, I unthinkingly sit down. For me to fall is for her to fall. She is my teacher; a dead person is my butoh teacher.

      Because we too, sooner or later, some day far or near, will be summoned, we must make extraordinary preparations while alive not to be panicked when that time comes. While the ballet dancer practices upright control over gravity, butoh practices the metaphysics of becoming in a metamorphic process. Ballet moves upward in its airy grace and ethereal disappearances. Butoh tends toward disappearance also, but it moves downward, plying awkwardness and dissipation, and as with material nature, it can regenerate.

      An image is often understood in terms of visual material, pictures, photographs, and figures in paintings, something discernable to the eye, but images are actually much more than this, as the study of butoh reveals — especially the buto-fu of Hijikata. His imagery is drawn from a wide variety of sensory sources, including the appeal of words. There are many layers of images in butoh, those that inspire the dance, those that animate its metamorphosis, and the actual images that strike the eye and mind of the audience.

      Nowhere in dance do we find such a rich exposition of imagery than in the work of Hijikata.

      Samsara - Butoh Dance Performance

      Hijikata did not perform on stage after He concentrated on choreographing for others and also worked extensively with Ashikawa Yoko. Gradually he recorded his original dance notation, or system of butoh-fu — sixteen scrapbooks of verbal and visual images for dance based on his experiments with surrealist strategies from poetry, painting, and literature.

      Wurmli reports that Hijikata did not date his work; thus, the exact time period and order of the books are uncertain. Hijikata started the butoh-fu in the early s and finished them in The text itself is handwritten in poetry and phrases, and most of it relates to the visual materials.

      The marks, mostly in pencil, are lines, circles, arrows and the like, used to emphasize parts of a visual image Ibid. For the most part, the images themselves also called butohfu do not show exact postures or movements, but leave this open to discovery — except in a few cases where actual photographs of dance are shown. Butoh performers and teachers, from Hijikata and Ohno to those who came after them, use butoh-fu to instruct dancers. These are evocative words that bring images to mind in terms of vision, movement, and processes of imagination. In a class that Sondra Fraleigh took with Waguri, students became lightning, chickens, and bee pollen.

      Waguri uses these typical butoh-fu from nature and other sources, not simply to inspire movement, but to teach dancers how to embody imagery. Butoh dancers do not bring lightness and floating into their bodies in imitation of pollen, because butoh movement is not imitative. Over time, dancers can let go of the self the will to become the floating and get lost in puffy lightness.

      She explains the ash pillar as a human sacrifice that has been burned, so that the only thing left is ash ready to crumble at any moment. When the ash figure walks, it has lost any power to control itself and moves erratically. Bug Ambulation sets in process an existential experience of eating and being eaten — one bug morphs to millions moving in the tree outside the body the dance — and inside the body the dance — itching the flesh — eating the flesh — eating consciousness — until only consciousness remains.

      It would not be correct to say that butoh-fu are meant to stand on their own. The movement that emerges can also be called an image, since dance movement is shaped in time and space. These are the movement images of the dance, and they carry lived valences values whether emotionally neutral or highly charged.

      Hijikata took the word in his own direction, but did not invent the term. In the original spirit of a chronicle, butoh-fu will differ from dancer to dancer in format, style and meaning. Under the heading, each instruction is followed by suggestions on how to achieve the form, either physically or imaginatively. An Old Woman Bent back, crouching.

      These contain many entries similar to those of the sixteen scrapbooks on file at the Keio University Research Center for the Arts and Arts Administration. Hijikata did not date his collection of butoh-fu, so archivists may have numbered the scrapbooks based on the date of magazines from which Hijikata cut photos or paintings. They contain copies of photos that Hijikata used to help dancers create images, accompanied by handwritten phrases and line drawings to emphasize the visual material. In fact, Hijikata did not publicize his own butoh-fu until just before his death in Thus, there are no butoh-fu in existence for any of the final performances that Hijikata choreographed.

      Ohno Kazuo. As we noted earlier, a butoh-fu is not a set of instructions or method on how to do butoh. The archive is not yet open to the public. Hand When does it come? Where does it come from? Whose hand? The invisible hand that responds to words Essence of eroticism. The butoh-fu above represents the type of short poems Ohno writes on the blackboard or pieces of paper in his dance studio when he is practicing for a dance.

      He jots words down in the form of ideas and rough sketches on specific themes during the course of his daily life as they come to him. Butoh practices influenced by Ohno are presented in Chapter 4, while here we focus on his poetic writings and workshop talks, which are verbal reflections in preparation for performing and teaching. The human hand has evolved in such a way that it is well able to talk. Ohno and Ohno Nakajima Natsu, one of the female founders of butoh, gave a pivotal speech at Fu Jen University in Taipei in explaining a Japanese Buddhist perspective of spiritual darkness in the work of Hijikata and Ohno and its feminine basis, even though these dancers were not working literally within any religious tradition.

      Dance in hell. Konpaku is a word that even the Japanese have forgotten and would be startled by. It describes the riverbanks where the dead and the living come and go, very much at peace. Nakajima emphasizes that the Japanese use Buddhist terms like higan — the far side of the riverbank for the world of the dead, and shigan — the near side of the riverbank for the world of the living. Konpaku is where the dead come and go several times a year crossing the river to their ancestral homes. This is something that cannot be seen — something that Ohno identified as Konpaku and Hijikata called ankoku and yami shadowy darkness — emanating contradiction and irrationality Nakajima His butoh-fu are existential questions, spurred first by war, and later by a self-imposed reclusive period after which he came back to the stage to perform Admiring La Argentina in Kazuo articulates a philosophy of life through evocative poetry and movement drawings, butoh-fu open to interpretation and embodied in his dance.

      The essential thing in dance is that it. Does that gesture tell us something about a wound you once suffered? He continues with one of his frequent themes, our obligation to honor the dead: The sufferings of others have, without our ever fully realizing it, been engraved in us. Let me put it this way. We survived only because others died in our place. Ohno and Ohno —9. He does not create while moving or practicing in the dance studio. He creates his movement and creates his own universe while writing. I think that would be his uniqueness.

      He also uses them in practice to teach students in workshops. He writes in colored pens, repeatedly erasing and re-writing on large sheets of paper. He has dreams during this time. Then he practices moving while reading what he has written Ohno Yoshito Until the moment of his performance on the stage, he always looks at his butoh-fu. But as soon as he is on the stage, he disregards it. If he sticks to butoh-fu, he cannot perform spiritually; yet, until the moment right before the performance, he looks at it. Ohno is also a poet. He expresses his inner life in poetic phrases, as he prepares for his dances.

      In preparation for his performance of Suiren Water Lilies he reflects on Monet, who painted Water Lilies at a time in his life when his eyesight was already weakened. How might Monet have seen his canvas and his flowering subject? The eye of the soul opened, Wrapped my whole body, Leaving me, touching me. My hands and mouth moved and danced.

      As we will see in Chapter 3 in the analysis of Suiren Water Lilies , Ohno is aware of eyes all over his body, and when doing his makeup, he accentuates his eyes with thick black eye liner. Yoshito explains possible meanings of body in Japanese as nikutai flesh , shintai physical body , karada body , but only the word karada includes kara, which also means emptiness in Japanese.

      Yoshito says: Yes, Kara. Well, the word sora sky or body can also be written with the Chinese ideograph as karada body. There is nothing: Karada. It is a collection of his essays and work notes including stage directions. To differentiate Ohno Kazuo and Ohno Yoshito, we use their first names in this section.

      The portfolio contains words, poetic phrases, and line drawings in preparation for the performance. There are no photos, surrealist paintings, or magazine clippings. His butoh-fu are his own thoughts on the setting, costumes, and movement, accompanied by sketches of hand movements and dance notations for moving across the stage. In Dessin a: Unpaginated , Kazuo sketches salmon flapping from scaffolds upheld by poles — slashing on the page in strong, bold calligraphy brush strokes.

      Kazuo reflects on the flow of life and death — and the womb as world: Which is a boat? Which is a river? Interwoven life and death. Kazuo does not write his butoh-fu to create a method but to prepare psychologically for a performance, musing on the setting, costumes, body movements, and stage movements. These talks might be considered fragments of loose thoughts in spoken form; in the creative process, they provide reflective periods for new birth to be experienced. All the same, some of the family along with Kazuo have been baptized Christian and attend church. As with many Japanese, multiple religious affinities co-exist.

      Photograph by Ikegami Naoya. The actual pilgrimage culminated in the performance of the Dead Sea danced by Kazuo and Yoshito. His father spent long months at sea with the fishing fleet, and on returning to Hakodate liked to pass time at a local geisha house. As the eldest son, Kazuo would often have to go and fetch his father in the morning from the geisha house, where he would find him chanting along with the Gidayu chanting with shamisen players.

      He holds that dance is spiritually transformative, and does not necessarily recreate daily life. You will become a flower. Am I writing about butoh? The womb of the universe? I am not sure. La Argentina was not simply a Spanish dance performer for Kazuo to emulate. How could we possibly unite again, given that I had to keep treading over pile upon pile of dead bodies?

      When Sondra Fraleigh saw him dance Suiren in Yokohama in , she was moved by how he gathered the audience to him at the end of the. During these long years, Ohno rose to the rank of Captain in charge of provisions. Then came his long difficult return to a destroyed homeland. Yoshito was three months old when his father was conscripted for military service in August of and nine when he returned. This form of love is about giving, while Eros is motivated by desire, the fulfillment of each through the other, and Filia is brotherly love.

      Audiences respond in various ways, some feel grateful for their lives, many cry, feeling healed in his presence and through his dance. In performance, his spontaneous giving spirit abounds. Yet people who know Kazuo sometimes comment on his aloofness, and indeed this may actually serve his art, even as some objective distance is required of any performer. As to his personal character offstage, as usual his son Yoshito, who has contributed tremendously to the words of butoh, has the last word.

      So how do we know butoh when we see it in the twenty-first century, and does it still bear a relationship to butoh founders, Hijikata Tatsumi and Ohno Kazuo? From the very beginning, Hijikata and Ohno intrigue audiences as much as they baffle them. In several ways their butoh is like all dance in this regard. To dance is to explore human consciousness through bodily means. Hijikata and Ohno invert consciousness, however, sublimating the body while extending its liminal states, as we explore in analyzing five of their dances in this chapter.

      These men are not narrative or symbolist modern dancers; neither are they neutrally postmodern. As butohists, they move past modern categories altogether. One does not so much read their butoh works to find meaning there; rather, one enters into morphing states of awareness through the performances. There is a difference between metaphoric and metamorphic imagery; butoh does not ride on metaphor, but rather on change and an ethos of becoming.

      As the root word of ethics, ethos, points to a matrix of values, attitudes, habits, and beliefs. Surely there is an element of subjective reflection in being an audience for any kind of dance, but Hijikata and Ohno are the first to proffer wholly experiential avenues for relating to dance.

      Hijikata dances his darkness, constructs his body of pain and absurdity, and the audience morphs through these aspects of themselves. As for Ohno, people feel better in his presence and through the spirituality of his performances. The audience for butoh is offered an experience of theater that is not distanced — filtered through centuries of movement styles and character development — as in Kabuki and Noh, or even Western ballet. Experience, as such, guides Hijikata and Ohno.

      They dance human experience in broad strokes as they connect to life and death. In their shapeshifting, they become other creatures and explore elements of nature, even as they poke holes in the political world stage they inhabit. It will become apparent, as we look into their dance works that they are searching for something underneath the human skin of society — Hijikata through his challenge of social conventions and connections to his childhood, and Ohno through his spiritual brand of depth psychology. The early butoh of Hijikata and Ohno can be interpreted on one level as an anti-social resistance movement effected through a deconstruction of the social body.

      Hijikata and Ohno were certainly aware of the social issues of their time and how the body is culturally conditioned or constructed. Such readings of the butoh body through trauma and desire extend beyond those of violent rebellion, anti-social behavior, and bodily deconstruction. Butoh is not the product of a single event, nor can it be reasoned through a single social lens; it can be explained less reductively as a form of dance experience and a social movement emerging through two talented men in the opportune environment of creative freedom.

      The presentation of the butoh body as a form of social rebellion converged with an aesthetic tendency toward Obsessional Art in s Japan. Revivals of surrealism, neo-dadaism, expressionism, existentialism, post-war social upheaval, and demonstrations against American political and economic hegemony all played a part Kuniyoshi Japanese art after World War II derived from action and developed around issues of the body and place.

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