At the end of 2015, I came to Japan with a goal : to research about the avant-garde art of early 20th century Japan, called butoh. At that time, I knew very few about it, but somehow I new I had to study it. I first saw a performance of Sankai Juku in France and I had a very special impression after this show : I felt I was like in another dimension of space and time, and it was the first time I could hear this deep and peaceful silence at the end of the show during nearly 60seconde after the applause began. I kept meeting people and performances related to butoh since I decided to learn about it, I knew universe was supporting me on that direction. Thanks to the warm welcome and kindness of the director of the Hijikata Tatsumi Archives at Keio University in Tokyo, I was able to do my research there for a year and will still consult documents regularly.
Butô, also written “butoh”, is a complex discipline that can not be enclosed by a definition.
It is above all an experience. No word I could use here will be worth the experiment of the butoh itself, corporeally. However I try here to share my experience with this discipline, which seems to be different for everyone. We find as many definitions as dancers today, but the minds and the foundations remain globally the same.
This innovative movement was founded by HIJIKATA Tatsumi, and also benefited from the close collaboration of Kazuo Ohno. It was the fruit of a socio-political context of the 1960s in Japan, but strongly fostered by the avant-garde movements of Europe in the 1920s and 1950s. HIJIKATA Tatsumi was rather invested in the dadaism movement, and his work arrived in a A logical sequence of this great artistic movement of the early 20th century.
Butoh often mix various arts such as dance, theater, plastic arts, literature … and it was first attributed the name of “Ankoku butô,” or dance of darkness. There are traces of various beliefs such as Shinto and Buddhism.
This discipline is above all a bodily experience, devoid of ego, in which we explore our link with space, trying to be one with the world and the cosmos. It is sometimes a search for dehumanization, and overall to evolve from feelings and physical sensations, images, movement, without ever using one of the elements alone. But I would also say that it is a philosophy of life.
My story with Butô:
I did not look for the butoh, it was the butoh who came to find me. When I met him, it was as if I already knew him. I have been sensitized to the surrealist and dadaiste universe since very young. Indeed, my mother, still a painter in my little child, very quickly introduced me to the concepts present in this rich artistic and literary movement. The latter has always been a great source of creative inspiration for me. Everything that touched near or far surrealism came to me … The butoh is in fact connected, from Hijikata Tatsumi himself.
In the current state of my research, I like to see the butoh as a philosophy of life: the more I experiment it in course (with Yoshito Ohno, Natsu Nakagima, Yuri Seisaku) or studies it in the archives Hijikata Tatsumi Keio University, the more it is clear that it is not just a dance, theater, or technique. It is a world in which to dive. For Hijikata Tatsumi, it was above all an experiment, which did not have a name originally defined. The name of ankoku buto (dance of darkness) came only later, following the Kinjiki performance dating back to 1959 based on a novel by Yukio Mishima. For Yoshito Ohno it is a prayer, “inaru”, for a better world. He told us about his decision to “dedicate” himself to buto after a long period of rest from 1969 to 1986, marked by a ceremony with his family during which he shaved the skull symbolically. More than a discipline, butoh is an integral part of his life.
One day, I asked Yoshito Ohno after an interview I filmed: “Yoshito sensei, for you, what is the butô?” (I still wonder in spite of all my research how to explain it, when asked). And he said to me, “A prayer, and you?” And another student answered for me, in English, with the awkward voluntary translation that corresponds to the touching reply I had: “It’s you What you’re doing is buto.” Your heart’s sense, And well that’s it. ” As for Natsu Nakagima, she often replies that she is still wondering about the subject. Indeed, it is well that the buto is never locked up. It contains rules of work, errors in which not to fall, like that of falling into the ego …
We can see a lot of parallel between the butoh and the theater of the absurd of Antonin Artaud : no ego, deshumanisation.
I will continue to write on the subject, however I need more perspective to share more, my vision changing and evolving every day. In addition, many very detailed works on the subject already exist. My goal is not to take up these works, but to share my research and my experience of “dancer” buto, and give a global image to the general public out of clichés.