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Intense Bodily Presence

Practices of Polish Butō Dancers

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Magdalena Anna Zamorska

The author explores the practices of Polish butō dancers. Underlining the transcultural potential of the genre, she discusses in particular their individual body-mind practices and so-called butō techniques in order to produce a generalised account of butō training. Her argument is underpinned by complex field research which she carried out as an expert observer and a workshop participant. Drawing on a transdisciplinary approach, which combines insights and findings from the fields of cultural and performance studies, cultural anthropology and cognitive sciences, the book depicts the sequence of three phases which make up the processual structure of butō training: intro, following and embodiment.

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1. Butō

1. Butō

Butō is a dance form that came into being in Japan in the second half of the 20th century; its founding fathers were Tatsumi Hijikata and Kazuo Ōno.

In Japan, dance was originally referred to as kami-asobi, i.e. “gods at play.” Towards the end of the 19th century, the term buyō, which precisely denoted “dance,” came into use (Żeromska 2010a: 37). This is why Hijikata himself initially called his art Ankoku buyō, meaning “the dance of utter darkness” (“‘ANKOKU’ means darkness, as ‘AN’ is darkness and ‘KOKU’ is black” – Kasai 2009b). Later, he replaced the umbrella term buyō with the word butō, which as early as in the Meiji epoch was used to mean ballroom dancing that had come from the West (cf. Viala, Masson-Sekine 1988: 64).1 The first decade of the butō movement was “very much focused on the ankoku side of life, full of violence, grotesquery, and madness” (Roquet 2003: 31). For example, the first performance of this genre, entitled Forbidden Colours (1959), was inspired by Yukio Mishima’s short story which tackled homosexuality and the interconnections of violence and sexuality. In the show, Hijikata built on performative strategies of the happening and body art popular in the West,2 even though his goal was to create a new type of dance as an alternative to modern Western dance, which prevailed on Japanese stages in the wake of World War Two. Hijikata’s Ankoku butō continued to develop “through the pre-history of notational butō (1959–1972) up to notational butō (1972–1985)” (Pastuszak 2010a: 13).3 When a second and then third generation of butō dancers entered the stage in the 1970s, the dark overtones of the name were deemed too limiting, which prompted shortening it to butō alone (舞踏) (cf. Klein 1988: 2). Even though many Japanese still employ the Ankoku butō apellation, the later, clipped version of the name has become widespread in the West.

Hijikata’s and Ōno’s ideas about what made up the essence of dance contributed to the invention of an entirely new genre. The artists proposed a vision of the body and dance which indeed sounded subversive in their day: Hijikata unveiled the suppressed aspects of corporeality and contested everyday practices of body use, while Ōno affirmed the spiritual dimension of bodiliness, which was tending←19 | 20→ to wane in Japan’s Americanised post-war culture. Whereas Hijikata invented many butō techniques that are still widely employed today, Ōno was recognised as the master of improvisation. Both were born in the north of Japan, which was an economically and culturally disadvantaged region. Ōno was born in 1906 in Hakodate, a small fishing village; Kunio Yoneyama (later Hijikata) was born in a farming village in the Akita Prefecture, Tohoku Province. Their childhood was marked by poverty and the deaths of their loved ones. They met, probably, in 1949, when Ōno performed at the Kanda Public Hall in Tokyo.

Early in their artistic careers, both Hijikata and Ōno studied modern (mostly expressionist) dance. However, they refused to view the body as reduced to a trained and technically skilled tool. They insisted that dance should come from within the body and, in this way, re-invigorate “its structure and performance” (Gōda 1988: 86). Consequently, their stage work was “resistant to critical interpretation” and triggered the process of “direct […] communication between the audience and the dancer” (Klein 1988: 28). Nevertheless, despite butō dancers’ deep-running dislike of methods that shackled the body, several butō-ka (including Hijikata himself since the 1970s) have attempted to structure their dance by introducing defined movement techniques and even aesthetic agendas.

Nario Gōda differentiates between original Ankoku butō and the later, sprawling butō movement (cf. Gōda 1988: 79). Toshiharu Kasai, in turn, divides butō dance into original (the dance of Hijikata and Ōno), classical (the dance of second- and third-generation dancers of Japanese origin, such as Akira Kasai, Akaji Maro, Biskup Yamada, Natsu Nakajima, Min Tanaka and Ushio Amagatsu) and Westernised (or internationalised) butō; he also insists that there is a universal butō method, which he calls “hyper dance” (cf. Kasai 2000). The original and classical butō varieties clearly exhibit the culturally determined, Japanese mode of using the body, which vanishes in internationalised butō.

Premodern Elements of Butō

Butō tends to be classified as a postmodern dance form as it has no codified and intersubjectively comprehensible dance idiom, freely accommodating sundry borrowings and being open to interpretation. However, as Miyabi Ichikawa observes, butō seems to transgress modernity by going, so to speak, backwards and reaching back to the premodern era (Ichikawa 1988: 69).

In the aftermath of World War Two, Japan’s consciousness of its native culture started to grow, including a renewed appreciation for the long histrionic tradition, which had fallen into oblivion, having been slowly ousted from communal memory by the frequently uncritical fascination with European culture rife in←20 | 21→ the Meiji epoch (1868–1912) and the imitation of Western (chiefly American) cultural models in the post-war years. The widespread admiration for the style of Western modern art came to be viewed as indicative of the cultural domination of Western countries. In opposition to the West’s hegemony, Japan’s artistic avant-garde urged drawing on Japanese traditions, customs and beliefs. Such attitudes were very popular: when in the late 1950s, students took to the streets rallying in response to the Mutual Security Treaty with the US (1951; amended in 1960) – a former enemy who had dropped atomic bombs on Japanese cities during World War Two – their protests were accompanied by street performances which abundantly alluded to Japanese myths and legends (cf. Janikowski 2008). A decade later, in 1970, Yukio Mishima, an avant-garde Japanese writer and a member of the military association Tatenokai, seized control of Japan’s military headquarters and gave a speech informed by the Bushido Samurai code, calling for a coup d’etat and the restitution of the empire. As the plan failed, he took his own life, committing the ritual suicide of seppuku.

Also many Japanese scholars and intellectuals advocated going back to the native Japanese vision of individual autonomy, strongly anchored in the local community. One of them was Yanagita Kunio, a researcher of the oral traditions of the yamabito (mountain people) and the jōmin (rural village folk) who never quoted works by Western scholars. He argued for dismissing modernism as associated with the individualism touted by the Western world. He sought to “give voice” to the excluded (women, old people, madmen), whom he regarded as the bearers of authentic Japanese culture. In turn, Yasuji Honda (1906–2001), a cultural scholar who focused on the study of Japan’s theatre tradition,

[…] spent years traversing Japan, resolved not to pass over any temple, no matter how small, if only it had retained any traces of the theatrical glory of old. Inquisitive, meticulous and insightful, he produced an extraordinarily rich and comprehensive body of documentation, recording most performances. (Żeromska 2003: 21)

Japan’s traditional theatre (Nō, Kyōgen, Kabuki) used histrionic models developed in ritual shows.

These Nativist ideas had a powerful impact on artists. As butō was being born, many avant-garde stage artists were finding inspiration in Japan’s archaic traditions. The group included: Terayama Shuji (a poet and playwright inspired by folk festivals who founded the avant-garde Tenjō Sajiki group), Kara Juro (the founder of the Jōkyō Gekijō group, i.e. the Situationist Theatre) and Suzuki Tadashi (the founder of the Suzuki Company of Toga, dedicated to searching for genuinely Japanese identity and relying on the “poses” of Nō, Kabuki and martial arts for his movement idiom) (Klein 1988: 17–18). This aspect of butō←21 | 22→ was studied by Susan Blakeley Klein (1988), who outlined her interpretation of the phenomenon in a study titled Ankoku Butō: The Premodern and Postmodern Influences on the Dance of Utter Darkness.

Pointing to traditional Japanese theatre as the source of inspiration, Klein approaches butō as a postmodern art form in which traditional theatrical techniques, forms and ideas are typically re-contextualised (Klein 1988: 20). She believes that using various performing techniques counterbalances the often unreflective adoption of Western patterns. With these assumptions in mind, Klein defines butō as a performative art form in which the Western, modern concept of the stage production is rejected, while vernacular traditions are deconstructed.

In this context, reaching back to premodern traditions (Klein 1988: 14) entails restoring the bond with the uncanny, the irrational and the unconscious. This is why violence, ritual sacrifice and/or ecstasy – experiences rooted in the collective unconscious – take place on stage. Dancers produce a vision of an anti-rational and anti-modern world. The ongoing metamorphosis unfolds outside of time, where boundaries between worlds are blurred. The critic Kiyokazu Yamamoto has called this model of time metempsychosic: “there is only process which is cyclical and endless” (Yamamoto 1978: 31). Communication is facilitated by poetic metaphors, which work by evoking vague associations and building a sense of affinity. In the world of butō, words and things are never disjoined, and beings are ubiquitously simultaneous (cf. Eguchi 1988: 89–90). Butō dancers do not seek to fashion reality and identity verbally, but expose themselves and the world in the pre-rational stage. They can operate at the level of the unconscious, both collective (communal) and individual (of a life script). What emerges from explorations of their own unconscious resources is intertwined with images anchored in the collective unconscious. According to Klein, butō dance has in this way challenged the traditionally endorsed dramatic construction of performance.

The early interest in the unconscious was accompanied by reviving the tradition of popular entertainments. The founders of butō, like many other Japanese avant-garde artists of the 1960s, turned to early 20th-centrury forms of popular theatre, such as the Asakusa opera, the circus-like Misemono shows and the Yose vaudeville revue based on comic monologues (Richie, qtd. in Klein 1988: 15). Yet Hijikata also drew on the classic Japanese performative tradition of Nō and Kabuki theatres (the latter going back to dances of actor-prostitutes; Klein 1988: 15). The butō originators combed these traditions for devices and tropes.

The mask is the oldest tool for becoming an empty shell, for casting off of individual traits and for relinquishing one’s ego. Used by actors in the Japanese theatre tradition, the mask serves “to de-personalise the performer, to neutralise←22 | 23→ facial expression, to underscore the conventionality of the character and to divest him/her of reality […] unlike in the European tradition, the mask never highlights the character’s individuality or presents his/her face” (Żeromska 2003: 13).

The mask in Japan boasts a history of five thousand years. Over these centuries, the mask has evolved from a ritualistic prop to a histrionic one. Farming and shepherding peoples used the mask to transfigure a person into an ancestral animal, a hero, a deceased one, a spirit or a deity. The functions and meanings of the mask in mediaeval Nō theatre were largely shaped by the oldest forms of performance, such as early shamanistic practices and okina-mai dance originating from archaic shamanistic trance rituals.

The metamorphosis of the Nō actor already commences during preparations in the Mirror Room, where the protagonist, having ritualistically put on an appropriate mask, contemplates the face of the “visitor from the underworld” (henshin) in the mirror. The mask straddles the boundary between two worlds. The actor must adeptly animate the mask, which supports the “still living” body parts. Paradoxically, the mask has vivid facial expressions as it is constructed to convey an entire array of feelings, affected by the lighting, the rake angle and other factors. “The mask becomes a face and the face a mask. It is not the psychology of feelings but the anatomy of forms which is being dealt with here” (Barba, Savarese 2005: 134). Actors who use the mask insist that the face behind it must act too, lest the body belies the expression of the “face.” Yet Kanze Hisao, a Nō actor, has a different view: “the mask responds to the slightest trembling of the face. And this forces the actor to immobilise the face completely” (Żeromska 2003: 188).

When the mask is donned, the face is submerged in darkness.

The light gets under the wooden surface only through “two tiny pupil-apertures, which […] the human eye perceives as a single point. […] actors feel regular human anxiety as, losing the sense of perspective and distance, they struggle to maintain the body balance.

(Żeromska 2003: 193)

With the stimuli which make it possible to find one’s bearings in a space shut out so radically, actors must display focus and mindfulness: “On putting the mask on, the actor […] can move to regions remote from the quotidian. The actor can sense, in the universe, a dimension in which s/he is not a particle and the stage with the on-stage world is no fiction” (Żeromska 2003: 188). The mask imposes special ways of bodily comportment, which is so vital in Nō. For example, because of the constraints to perception, the suriashi walk has been developed in which the feet very carefully and slowly slide on the polished floor. This step also appears in butō, in what has come to be referred to as zero walk (hokōtai) (cf. “Terms”).←23 | 24→

In Kabuki theatre, actors, instead of using masks, put on gaudy make-up called kumadori (which also covers the inside of the mouth) on their heavily whitened face. The actor’s eyes are most important as they are vividly accentuated, bulging, squinting and gazing into the beyond: “the eyes twist as if they were about to pop out of the actor’s head” (Barba, Savarese 2005: 131). Bright make-up had already been appreciated in the classic Kabuki, where the stage was traditionally dim and lit only by candlelight. The white face made the dancer more clearly visible amidst the darkness of the stage. In turn, the colourful patterns (kumadori) serve to “highlight and expose the character’s features, social and occupational status, gender and age” (Hoczyk 2009b: 15).

Despite similarities, make-up in butō has a different role than the mask in Nō theatre and the kumadori make-up in Kabuki. With not only the face but also the entire body coated in white powder, the dancer can discard the visual signs of social membership and, in this way, universalise the body, helping it return to its original state (the nakedness and the shaven head can serve a similar purpose). The body transmutes into a tabula rasa which lends itself to any inscription. Initially, artists put a mixture of chalk and glue on their faces, turning them into masks, shells or carapaces. In the course of time, a make-up of rice flour and water was developed, resembling the substance used by Kabuki actors. The thick layer of flour or powder gradually peels and flakes off during the performance, which brings processes of decomposition to mind. Such make-up helps the dancer’s identity disintegrate in front of the audience. The white body make-up promotes “the Butō vision of an unstable world in a state of constant flux, cyclically moving back and forth between the poles of disintegration and recreation”

(Klein 1988: 48).

Grimaces, distorted facial expressions and unnatural postures serve as major tools of on-stage transformation. For this reason, mie – typical Kabuki poses – is another of butō’s borrowings from the Japanese performative tradition. Mie is an utterly expressive pose accompanied by heightened facial expressions in which the actor “freezes” for a while (“the eyes bulge out and cross, the mouth stretches into an extraordinary grimace, the body seems to blow up to a superhuman size” – Klein 1988: 49). Kabuki performers heavily rely on mie to highlight the climax of their protagonists’ actions:

The actor halts, freezes motionless and then turns his gaze towards a certain point and stares at it with his face contorted in a grimace. Mie serves to fix the extraordinary beauty in the audience’s memory by arresting – in time and space – one situation out of a stream of many minor events which make up the underlying plot. (Melanowicz 1994: 433)

Actors themselves refer to this enforced standstill as “cutting.”←24 | 25→

The actor’s pose could be described as stopping the film in that particular frame where the actor is showing a special tension: hence the meaning of cutting the action and of blocking a living immobility […]. One could say that a kabuki performance is a transition from one mie to another, that is, from one summit of tension to another. (Barba, Savarese 2005: 130)

Butō involves moments of stoppage as well. They are referred to as beshimi kata (Iwabuchi 1988: 77), with beshimi meaning “big pursed lips” and deriving from the name of a Nō mask for powerful deities and demons of the local pantheon that converted to Buddhism and guarded Buddhist temples. The name of the mask is used to describe an excessively distorted face with rolling eyes, which is common in butō (Klein 2008). Klein refers to beshimi kata as “mie in motion” (Klein 2008). “Beshimi kata, an equivalent of mie, appear as constantly changing facial grimaces and body twists; instead of ‘freezing’ the body and fixing it in one pose and form, there is an ongoing flux of forms” (Hoczyk 2009b: 18).

The Kabuki tradition involved “rituals of inversion, grotesque and clownery, which the critic Masakatsu Gunji described as shuaku no bi, i.e. an aesthetics of ugliness” (Janikowski 2008: 51), “based not on the pursuit of aesthetic sublimity but on exposing human imperfection and showing human nature as ridiculous and banal” (Berestecka 2009: 28). The rituals were supposed to evoke the murky aspects of life, lay bare concealed and suppressed desires and fathom the depths of the human unconscious, which is redolent of what Bakhtin pervasively refers to as “the material bodily lower stratum” in his classic study of carnival

(see Bakhtin 1984).

Typical of the grotesque are spasmodic convulsions of the body, rolling whites of the eyes, stuck-out tongues and inhumanly distorted faces (cf. Klein 1988: 28). As explained by Harpham, whom Klein cites (cf. Harpham 1982: 14–16), the grotesque is ambivalent, irrational, absurd, incongruous and, above all, elusive of any univocal interpretation. It concerns the things ousted from consciousness, provokes disgust and aversion, but at the same time fascinates, producing a blend which triggers a physical, bodily response.

Klein insists that the inclusion of the grotesque in butō is associated with the original inspiration from Kabuki. Initially, the Kabuki actor’s social status was ambiguous and consequently marginal. Like itinerant priests, actors were considered divine and consecrated creatures, yet at the same time they were regarded as accursed and impure. Actors and geishas were outsiders in society though, admittedly, they were not ostracised, unlike the burakumin – the outcast group of untouchables. This classic ambivalence of the sacred and the profane had survived until the Edo era, when theatre got “domesticated.” In the late Edo period, marked by the cultural emancipation of townspeople, Kabuki performances staged←25 | 26→ social groups that were excluded, peripheral places, marginalised situations and everything “dark, taboo and repressed” (Klein 1988: 37), breeding interest or unwholesome fascination as a forbidden fruit.

Hijikata borrowed from Kabuki its capacity to sneak through the fissures in the armour Japanese society had forged to protect itself. The butō dancer ventured into the world of the marginalised and the voiceless – of “children, the handicapped (blind musicians are especially prominent), the insane, refugees, the primitive savage, the very old, even scapegoat figures from other cultures” (Klein 1988: 38).

Another possible source of the grotesque in butō is the integration into the creative process of various elements pushed into the unconscious (socially tabooed) (cf. “The Abject” in Chapter 5). The themes of violence and sexuality surface when the actors examine their own inner fragmentation. In this process, they reclaim “the body that has been robbed” (Ichikawa 1988: 71).

Klein also discerns other borrowings. Corporeality explored in butō was a vital element of Kabuki theatre, which originally operated in entertainment districts. Kabuki was distinctly erotic, which was associated both with political censorship, which considerably restricted the subject-matter of performances, and with the very origins of the genre, i.e. the erotic dances of the Shinto priestess (miko) Okuni (Żeromska 2010b: 19–32). Kabuki theatre was very soon targeted by censorship also because performances were surrounded by practices which were deemed highly immoral. To prevent fights caused by the common trafficking of actresses’ bodies, women were banned from the stage, and soon afterwards, the ban was extended to include young boys impersonating female characters (wakashū). All female roles were given to grown-up males with shaven heads. In this way, an actor type specialising in female roles – onnagata – came into being. As such, female parts in the Kabuki theatre provoked playing on sexual identity off-stage. Onnagata commonly wore female kimonos and adopted the culturally ascribed female gait, which helped them behave with ease on stage. Sometimes they identified with being women so much that, in the early 20th century, an onnagata was arrested for trying to bathe in the women’s section of a public bath (Keene 2001: 100). The celebrated actor Ayame Yoshizawa claimed that as soon as an onnagata realised that, on-stage, he made typically feminine gestures, he stopped being a woman and regressed into being a man (Keene 2001: 100).

In the early, aggressive and revolutionary period of butō development, cross-dressing was frequent on stage and often involved homoeroticism. Unlike the culturally accepted onnagata, butō artists were socially transgressive rebels. Their manipulations of sexual identity were deliberately controversial and shocking. For example, in The Forbidden Colours (1959), historically the first performance←26 | 27→ classified as butō theatre, Hijikata and Yōshito Ōno (Kazuo Ōno’s son) simulated homoerotic intercourse; in The Dance of the Rose Colour (1965), Hijikata and Kazuo Ōno danced wearing long, flowing robes; and in the Revolt of the Flesh (1968), Hijikata, naked, fastened an enormous, golden phallus to his underbelly. Hijikata also encouraged his students and collaborators to appear in night clubs in the belief that it would help them be at ease with nakedness on stage. Butō dancers drew on their familiarity with cultural norms (and theatrical codes) in order to consciously transgress them.

The formation of Ankoku butō aesthetics was significantly influenced by the technique of representing human characters in ukiyo-e woodcuts, which flourished in the 18th century. Ukiyo-e means “a floating world” (cf. Mazurek 1994).

The master stylists of Butoh have much in common with Ukiyo-e’s abstract stylizations of the human figure in motion that are still vital today. Woodcuts illustrated popular life and the original Kabuki theatre – its actors and patrons, passions and intrigues. The print colors, now dimmed through age, were once very bright. This art captured the life of Edo (the original name for Tokyo) after the Tokugawa shogunate brought stability and prosperity […] in the seventeenth century. Ukiyo-e documents common life as well as the sophistication and vices of the times. […] Its subjects are wide-ranging, but play, sex, and theatre – not work – are the serious occupations of Ukiyo-e. […] The body is elaborately adorned in both Ukiyo-e and Butoh, or exposed and boldly colored with paint and white powder. (Fraleigh 1999: 10–11).

Finally, butō performances include, unwittingly perhaps, elements of the Japanese performance pattern called jo-ha-kyū (cf. Klein 1988: 43–46). Essentially, in jo-ha-kyū on-stage activities are repeated in cycles based on a fixed sequence. Each cycle starts from a slow action (jo); the jo phase serves to capture the audience’s attention and to “hypnotise” them, so to speak. Then follows the fast phase (ha), leading to the climax (kyū), arrest and return to the jo phase. This pattern surfaces in butō in constant radical alternations of the pace and sudden changes in rhythm. Butō performances have also incorporated the element of applause, after which the dancer comes back on stage, this time as “him/herself.” Yet in butō, the position and the meaning of this last entrance have been re-invented: the moment encapsulates the culmination and often even the essence of the performance

as such.

According to Klein, butō attempts to recognise and negate the ideals of post-war, post-industrial society that prioritises finite and functional identities. The constant transformation process in which the dancer is divested of identity while “the audience are confronted with the disappearance of the individual subject” is an ultimate challenge to “the modern myth of the individual” (Klein 1988: 32). In the process of continual metamorphosis, the butō dancer reveals a fragmented, fluid self←27 | 28→ and forces the audience to face up to an agent who is suspended in the liminal zone, in-between the various beings s/he incorporates in turns. Identification involves not only appearance (presence), but also somatic sensations, feeling and mental states, while “becoming” marginal figures helps identify with their social position.

Tatsumi Hijikata: The Structure

Tatsumi Hijikata (born Kunio Yoneyama) moved to Tokyo at the age of twenty-four in 1952. Earlier, he briefly studied dancing with Katsuko Masumura. Deeply affected by the dance of Mitsuko Andō and Kazuo Ōno, he started to study dancing with Eguchi Takaya and Andō in 1953.

Aleksandra Capiga-Łochowicz, a Japan scholar and butō dancer, discusses Hijikata’s rich life, artistic ideas and stage techniques in her study Bunt ciała. Butoh Hijikaty [Revolt of the Flesh: Hijikata’s Butoh] (Capiga, 2009). In a review of the book, Katarzyna Bester observes that Hijikata

[…] repeatedly took the risk of going beyond the good-evil line. He was both a master and a pimp to his students. He inspired admiration and horror in his colleagues. Yet, in Capiga’s book, Hijikata displays nothing of his demonic self. Capiga focuses on his unhappy childhood and makes the reader sympathise with and pity him, in which she tends all too easily to succumb to the artist, who skilfully manipulates his self-image. (Bester 2010b: 72)

Bester cites Hijikata’s students. Interviewed by her, Daisuke Yoshimoto said: “He was a man of unbelievable attraction, but also destruction. He was dangerous. Personally, I was afraid of him” (Bester 2010b: 72). In an interview with Bonnie Sue Stein, Min Tanaka declared: “He [Hijikata] is the devil” (Tanaka 1986: 151). It might have been this ambivalence of Hijikata’s personality that powered the original Ankoku butō.

“There is no definition of butō. Some interpreters try to force butō into this or that principle, but, as the founder of butō Hijikata said, defining butō kills its nature” (Paduch 2009). Consequently, instead of defining Hijikata’s butō, it makes more sense to describe it in terms of three distinctive idioms of corporeality: the primordial body, the Japanese body and the body in crisis.

At the core of the Ankoku butō was the return to the primordial, pre-cultural body, accomplished by relinquishing everyday bodiliness. In searching for the primordial body, one is submerged in the dark zone of repressed elements of the real that are hidden behind the façade of daily elegance. Therefore, the darkness that permeates Ankoku butō can be read as a subversive need to accept the body tabooed by culture. Ankoku butō performances tended to be “distinguished by their length […] their intended boredom” (Richie, qtd. in Klein 1988: 25), aiming to←28 | 29→ comprehensively explore aspects of human life which society seeks to suppress, such as violence and sexuality. For example, the audience of The Forbidden Colours reported that confronting the usually deeply hidden aspects of bodiliness gave them “the shudder [which] resulted in a refreshing sense of release” (Gōda 1988: 81).

In Hijikata’s view, the spectator’s aesthetic pleasure was his greatest enemy. Hijikata’s performances were inspired by the bleak and “decadent” work of Jean Genette, Lautréamont, Marquis de Sade and Aubrey Beardsley (Klein 1988), who sought to fathom the primordial, pre-cultural self, referred to as id in Freudian psychoanalysis. Hijikata’s major source of inspiration was the work of Genette, one of the absurdists. The theatre of the absurd typically explores the world in chaos, and absurdist dramas often feature masks, mirrors, dreams, doubles and suggestive images of death, all steeped in a thanatic obsession. It should perhaps be added that associations of butō aesthetics with the trauma of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are as frequent as they are unexamined (at least as regards original butō). Neither Hijikata nor Ōno ever deliberately referred to these tragic events.

Rather, the relentless darkness associated with butō is related to the “praise of shadows” ubiquitous in Japanese culture, as described in Junichirō Tanizaki’s likewise titled essay (2005). Another notion inherent in Japanese aesthetics that can be usefully applied to Ankoku butō is iki. The iki style reflects the preferences of the Edo-period bourgeoisie in the times when Kabuki theatre was thriving. Iki connotes first of all sophistication, typifying the wealth and lifestyle in red-light districts (geishas), expressed in stylishness, good taste and moderation combined with luxury and the play of light and shadow. Iki is a thoroughly secular notion and does not refer to any alternative reality. The beauty of iki is bound up with penumbra and understatement.

Another consequence of the return to the primordial body, besides turning to the indistinct, the bleak and the tabooed, is the rise of the idea of the sexless body. Butō challenges sexualities ascribed to people, underscoring the dancer’s originary asexuality: “the whitened bodies of butō dancers and their clean-shaven heads obliterate the attributes of sex, with dancers themselves becoming androgynous figures. Their bodies serve as a site of a specific sexual transgression” (Hoczyk 2009b: 16). Paradoxically, nudity, just like the mask and the white body make-up, also helps dancers shake off the attributes of sex (of course, in some performances, nakedness can be explicitly sexually loaded). The uniform white make-up – a shroud, a cocoon – facilitates bodily metamorphoses. As Carlotta Ikeda insists, “performing nude, we shed not only our clothes. The naked body makes us define our movements anew and re-invent ourselves, discovering ourselves in nakedness” (Aslan, Picon-Vallin, Amagatsu 2002: 143).←29 | 30→

The primordial body appears in the Revolt of the Flesh (Nikutai no Hanran, 1968); it is uncertain, soaking apart, absorbing and innocent in its return to its origin. Staging the process of the body’s regression in time, Hijikata embraced the idea of searching for one’s inner child, which was later to recur in his instructions for dancers of the Hakutobo group, which he choreographed. Reversion into the depths of the pre-cultural body was prompted by a childhood memory of falling down into a puddle: “I can, I know, declare that my butoh started there with what I learned from the mud in early spring, not from anything to do with the performing art of shrines or temples. I am distinctly aware that I was born of mud and that my movements now have all been built on that” (Hijikata 2000 f.: 73–74). Hijikata’s butō was based on primordial communion with the earth. “Exercises on the floor, rolling around, on the ground, all this is a matter of trust. If you feel safe, you treat the floor as a partner” (WAC).

Another idiom – the Japanese body – came to dominate Hijikata’s later explorations. The butō dancer Natsu Nakajima explains that one of the early ideas behind the butō movement was to build bonds and connections in order to create a bridge between modern Western dance and traditional Japanese culture (Nakajima 1998: 48–49).

In 1967, Hijikata travelled to his native region (the northern province of Tōhoku) to show The Sickle Dish (Kamaitachi) there. In the performance, he acted – or rather turned into – an innocent fool possessed by a demon. Having returned from Tōhoku, he created a dance rooted in his experiences of childhood spent in that remote, cold, rural area of Japan. This was when he started to discover the Japanese body. Yōko Ashikawa, Hijikata’s artistic partner for many years, later developed the idea of the ethnology of body movement – miburi-no minzokugaku4 – “using original rural costumes, traditional wigs, footwear and legends of peasants from northern Japan” (Janikowski 2008).

Hijikata relied on his memories for knowledge of postures and gestures typical of rural folk.5 He evoked the images of suffering and enslaved bodies, telling of children put into uncomfortable baskets, izume, during work in the fields (Capiga 2009: 80; cf. Hijikata 2000b); children would cry, eat and defecate in the←30 | 31→ baskets, left entirely to their own devices. With their feet tied, they excreted into the baskets and, waiting for their carers to return, they played with their bodies and hands. Taken out of izume, children stumbled on their cramped limbs, like “legless cripples.” Hijikata recalled how, immobilised and “playing with his body like with a toy, he would stop crying and grumble against the heaven” (Capiga-Łochowicz, qtd. in Paduch 2009). He wrote: “The feeling somewhere inside your body that your arm is not really your arm conceals an important secret. The roots of butoh are hidden there” (Hijikata 2000 f.: 75). Hijikata tended to mythologise childhood, but these references are exceptionally relevant and continue to recur in many forms. As he insisted, the essence of butō lies in “taming and employing one’s own darkness. What is this darkness? It is fear, pain, helplessness and hatred” (Capiga 2009: 82).

Another important theme revisited by Hijikata is the distinctness of the Japanese body. Formed from toiling in paddy fields, the body is, in his view, cut out for a different type of dance than Western dance. A characteristic pose struck by Japanese peasants is ganimata, that is, a bowlegged crouch. Nario Gōda describes ganimata in the following way: “the weight is hung on the outer sides of the two legs. When one ‘floats’ the inside of the legs upwards, the knees will turn out of their own accord, and the entire frame of the body sinks down” (Gōda 1988: 87). The pose ties in with an uncertain gait which metaphorically connotes existential uncertainty. “Western dance begins with feet firmly planted on the ground whereas Butoh begins with a dance wherein the dancer tries in vain to find his feet” (Viala, Masson-Sekine 1988: 189).

At the same time, Hijikata drew on certain explicit and latent assumptions of early Kabuki from before its domestication and called his dance style Tōhoku Kabuki. In 1972, he developed a series of 27 Nights for Four Seasons (Shiki no Tame no 27 Ban), in which he enacted his idea on the stage. Initially, butō relied heavily on the means of expression favoured by the Kabuki audience. It was only later that butō aesthetics grew more refined as butō came into contact with Western tastes. Moreover, butō appropriated Kabuki theatre’s earlier fascination with the shadow zone and repressed aspects of social life, which were given an aesthetic appreciation in the creative process (Klein 1988: 37).

Hijikata’s third bodily idiom is the body in crisis. Crisis is engendered when the primordial body is harnessed by social conventions which work so as to taboo the non-normative body which defies the pressures of socialisation. At the core of Hijikata’s butō lies rebellion and affirmation of the rejected. The artist extolled everything that the general public found worthless: femininity, disability, insanity and, finally, death (Roquet 2003: 28, qtd. in Capiga 2009: 76).←31 | 32→

Hijikata’s aim was to develop a form of dance to be danced by everybody – literally, by every body. He wanted to focus on taboo elements previously bracketed off from dance. Hence his focus on facial distortions and disabilities. In one of his essays, he says that a cripple, a person in a wheelchair represented an ideal dancer for him as there is truth in such an individual, and his/her movements are not disguised, not cloaked under a redundant cover. He was also resolved to address sexuality, homosexuality and, finally, death in his dance. Taboos earlier, such themes had been absent from dance.

(Żukowska 2009)

The crisis is expressed in body postures that recur in butō, with a rebellion against the polish of socialisation which is often manifested in “the tensed dancer teetering on grotesquely crooked legs” (Capiga 2009: 77). Born from discomfort, dance epitomises being on the verge and reveals the supressed forms of bodiliness.

The body of the Butō dancer convulses endlessly. It is as though each fiber of the muscles has its own selfish autonomy and shudders violently as it pleases. […] The will does not move the muscles; the muscles themselves have their own will. The trembling of the limbs infects the spectator watching, too; this will of the muscles calls forth the penetrating power of the imagination so that mutual communication between audience and dancer occurs. Rather than communicating stereotyped emotions through patterns of dance that imitate, Butō comes to have a more direct effect on the spectator.

(Iwabuchi 1988: 75)

Because the body’s movement is a testimony to a crisis, it cannot be fabricated only for the show. Importantly, Hijikata’s oft-quoted statement that “Dance for display must be totally abolished” (Hijikata 2000c: 39–40) has tended to be grievously and profusely misinterpreted. His intended “prohibition” concerned contemporary dance in the Japan of the 1960s, where watching dance shows in theatres served to provide entertainment and aesthetic contentment. Hijikata, in turn, believed that

the dancer’s body should terrorise. He explored dancing and sought to define its relation to existing reality. In fact, he loved to put the body on display, and his dancers appeared in go-go clubs painted silver all over – strippers’ aim in taking off their clothes is not to please anybody but to survive. This was one of the ways to protest against commercialisation of art. Dance helps survive a crisis situation and should originate in a crisis: in the need to survive, express oneself, find one’s identity. Dance should not aim simply to satisfy the audience. (WTA, Pastuszak)

Butō atomises and fragments the human body, which is symbolised in the “ash column,” an image often rehearsed in workshop practice focused on embodying representations. In this context, Hijikata devoted his last years to exploring the idea of the weakened body (suijakutai). The weakened body is a state of mind characterised by complete despondency and confusion in which the only thing left for a human being is accept his fate (Mikami 2002). This was the situation←32 | 33→ experienced by Hijikata’s first mythical dancer – Wind Daruma, a spirit of a dead man whose complaints could never be heard, muffled by whizzing wind and blizzards. Legends of Wind Daruma were common in cold Tōhoku when Hijikata was a child. In his article “Inner Material/Material” (2000c: 39) written in the Tokyo decadence period, the artist associates the ganimata pose with helplessness, vulnerability and extreme bodily wasting.

“A criminal on death row made to walk to the guillotine is already a dead person even as he clings, to the very end, to life” (Hijikata 2000e: 46). This image encapsulates the butō dancer’s state of mind – hovering between life and death. The encounter with death purifies the dancer of egotism and convention, turning the body into an empty receptacle. The dead inhabit the bodies of the living, and Hijikata “found other people in himself,” claims Yōko Ashikawa (qtd. in Hoffman, Holborn 1987: 20). The dead gave him a new perspective; for example, his dead sister living in him aroused his inner femininity. In fact, all butō techniques developed by Hijikata aimed to put the dancer’s body in a crisis situation.

Kazuo Ōno: Improvisation

Kazuo Ōno always carved his own path. Till his death in 2009, he repudiated all attempts at defining the butō technique and always relied on individual, unique improvisation. As the major object of my research is the structure (model) of butō practice, I rarely refer to Ōno’s dancing ventures. Nonetheless, his vision of dance is certainly another central pillar on which butō rests.

Ōno’s first source of inspiration was a performance by the flamenco dancer La Argentina (Antonia Mercé) that he saw in Tokyo in 1929. Five years later, fascinated with a dance show staged by Harald Kreutzberg, Ōno started to study modern dance with Baku Ishi and Eguchi Takaya, who disseminated German expressionist dance in Japan. Earlier he had attended the Japanese Gymnastics School in Tokyo.

Developing his Ankoku butō, Hijikata drew on Ōno’s dance. Kayo Mikami observes in her dissertation that butō scholars outside Japan often refer to Hijikata as the “Father of butō” and to Ōno as the “Mother of butō.” In the 1970s, the original butō split into two segments: the major one, the Hijikata-led Ankoku butō, aimed to create performances with a particular structure, and the other one focused on improvisation and was led by Ōno, Akira Kasai and others

(Mikami 1997: 18).

Unlike Hijikata, Ōno did not oppose the socialised body in his dance; nor did he seek to expose the world’s concealed ugliness, as he believed that we saw enough of it in our everyday lives. Instead, Ōno thematised universal archetypes←33 | 34→ through dance. Similarly to Hijikata, he drafted butō-fu in short verse, short essays, calligraphy and drawings. The notes served to catalyse the process in which bodies were re-configured and consciousness was transformed.

Ōno’s “existential questions are embodied in his dance poetry (his butoh-fu) in which his attention goes to matters of birth and death, nature, art and family” (Fraleigh 2010: 95). Those issues were reworked in an array of images, with the image of return to the womb, to pre-natal life, being the most prominent one. Sometimes during his workshops, Ōno spoke about a place called konpaku in Buddhist philosophy – the site where life and death meet, a space in which his students were supposed to dance. On other occasions, he addressed another important theme, i.e. the communion with the ancestors who inhabited dancers’ bodies and whose emotions dancers were supposed to feel. With Ōno around, “one learn[ed] how to slow down and pay attention to somatic attunements of feelings” (Fraleigh 2010: 96).

His pedagogy could be summed up in a depiction he himself provided:

When a person comes to me saying they want to dance, I always tell them that it will take at least five years. In these five years, I will teach them to analyse and organise their body’s gestures and, at the same time, I will raise their consciousness of life. Key to the education process is that neither of these things should be neglected and that the body itself should be placed at the core of the dilemma. (Kocur 2003)

Ōno is called “the great soul of butoh” (Polzer 2004). His dance is entirely unique and, as such, it cannot be learned.

Contexts: Dance, Performance Art and Physical Theatre

Most scholars and critics classify butō as “dance” even though it could equally be regarded as a variety of physical theatre or body art. The rise of butō in the 1960s coincided with a surge of radical changes in art in Europe and the US. Stage artists questioned the model of actor and dancer. Theatre based on physical actions and postmodern dance inspired by everyday uses of the body flourished. Bodiliness was also intensively explored in performance art developing at the intersection of visual and performative arts.

In the 1930s, many Japanese travelled to Europe to study dance. Both Tatsumi Hijikata and Kazuo Ōno studied modern dance with artists who had come back from abroad with many novel ideas. Hijikata’s master was Eguchi Takaya, who had studied with Mary Wigman (the founder of “absolute dance”) in Germany. Ōno also attended Takaya’s and Baku Ishi’s courses from 1934. Ishi defined his dance as poetry or haiku. Both teachers imported to Japan the ideas and techniques of German expressionist dance, which thrived in Germany in the 1920s and 30s.←34 | 35→

At the heart of expressionist dance lay the quest for genuine, individual expression unfettered by conventions and for the ambiguous, mysterious and non-rational. Novel as its ideas were, technically this type of dance was still grounded in classical dance models in which dancers were required to master a specific movement idiom. Klein observes that in the Japan of the 1950s and 60s, expressionist dance “was well on its way to becoming entrenched as just one more cultivated art that young, upper-middle class women were expected to learn before they married” (Klein 1988: 12). The expressiveness in butō should thus not be identified with that of expressionist dance. Self-expression through dance is an entirely unknown concept to the Japanese mindset. Expressionism’s central assumption of division into the inner and the outer is foreign to the Japanese spirit. The Japanese concept of the individual is far more “diffused and permeable” (Kasai, Parsons 2003: 258). The idea of identity or personality is a Western invention, as explained by Yukio Waguri (Hijikata’s heir and butō dancer of the Kozen-Sha group) in the bulletin of the 2nd Butoh & Related Arts Symposium & Dance Exchange Project “Ex…it! ’99.”6 For this reason, it is misguided to speak of individual expression of affects in the case of dancers entrenched in Japanese culture. Butō is not about a cathartic and exhibitionist articulation of stifled individual emotions. Rather, it is about the ability to get in touch with intersubjective sensations (which can be understood as an archetypal sphere, a kind of emotional matrix7). Even though the idea of authenticity and grotesque expressiveness certainly impacted the dancing model developed by Hijikata, butō first of all expresses the way in which young, post-war Japanese artists mutinied against the copying of Western patterns.

Butō also tends to be classified as postmodern dance. Briefly, while modern art can be said to invest in the quest for its own specificity and in defining the quintessence of respective forms of expression, postmodern art has no such aspirations. The debate on the distinctiveness of modernism and postmodernism also took place in dance theory (Carlson 2001: 126–130). Modernist dance experiments largely build on the variously comprehended ideas of pure movement or, at least, movement which no longer has to support or corroborate a narrative.←35 | 36→ Postmodernist dance, in turn, is associated with severing dance’s links to music and abandoning “meaning, characterization, mood or atmosphere” (Kirby 1975: 3–4), just as artistic performances relinquish techniques and conventions aimed at loading the body and movement with superimposed meanings. This kind of dance started to develop in New York in the 1990s (cf. Sier-Janik 1995). Postmodern artists dismissed the idea that dance was a pre-defined form of expression framed in patterns consisting of styles and devices (Carlson 2001: 128). New York’s Judson Dance Theater dancers discarded the principle of expressiveness and technical craftsmanship, instead bringing onto the stage everyday activities, nakedness and creative improvisation (also contact improvisation). Still, no consensus has yet been reached on the dividing line between modern and postmodern dance. According to Sally Banes (cf. Banes 1992, qtd. in Carlson 2001), the experimental dance of the early 1960s relied both on minimalist ideas and multimedia cacophony, while in the 1980s and 90s it came closer to what was referred to as postmodernism in other arts.

Butō dance can be considered a product of modernity: artists are looking for the essence of dance, for authentic, organic movement originating in bodily impulses and for an autonomous formula of movement unadulterated by cultural codes. Nevertheless, the way these ideas are enacted is heavily informed by postmodernism and its instruments, as exemplified, for instance, in separating movement from rhythm and forsaking technical perfection. For example, in his Forbidden Colours, Hijikata removed all the obligatory elements of dance productions of the day: music, dancing technique and a programme describing and interpreting the performance. The literal meaning of “butō” itself (bu – dance and tō – step) suggests the inclusion of normal walking into dance movements. Butō transcends the idea of dance comprehended as “beauty in motion.” It also crosses the boundaries between various art disciplines. It combines elements borrowed from popular arts with esoteric explorations. And, as behooves postmodern art, it ultimately dismantles the dancer’s subjectivity, stripping him/her of any stable identity (cf. Wańtuch n.d.).

Both Western and the Japanese dancing circles of the 1960s and 70s were closely associated with the community of performance, happening, minimal art and conceptual art artists.

Performance art displays an “interest in developing the expressive qualities of the body, especially in opposition to logical and discursive thought and speech, and in seeking the celebration of form and process over content and product” (Carlson 2001: 100). The body was ushered into performance arts as their key phenomenon by happening and performance, whose roots go back to body art←36 | 37→ (Carlson 2001: 99). Developing since the early 1960s, body art foregrounded the body and movement (cf. Carlson 2001: 101–102). With artists interested first of all in the process, the body becomes both the object and the subject of art. As the performer does not rely on a fixed stage code, s/he reveals his/her own phenomenal corporeality to the audience.

In early body art, modernism was the dominant tendency and performance “consisted only of simple actions, devoid of narrative, mimesis or aesthetic shaping” (Carlson 2001: 139). It relied on pure co-presence, which did not require the audience to take any position towards the performer’s actions: “Presence [is] available in the perceptual instance” (Carlson 2001: 140). In radical body art, artists prefer to push the body to extremes. For example, Chris Burden states that “he was trying to use extreme body states to induce certain mental states” (Carlson 2001: 103). A sine qua non of performance art is intense and direct interaction with the audience.8 Thus there is an affinity between the radical ventures of body artists and Hijikata’s Ankoku butō, in itself the body-in-crisis as expressed in movement.

Butō dance came onto Western stages in the 1980s, just as a transition was taking place in performance art from the high modernist, essentialist and reductive orientation of early “performance art,” which viewed the body as “the privileged site of authentic presence,” to the more complex, fragmentary, ambiguous, technologically innovative operations of “live art” of the 1990s, which she [Helen Spackman] relates to a shift from modernism to postmodernism in the performative consciousness. (Carlson 2001: 132)

However, the process took a different course in butō. The original austere model developed and used by Hijikata was smoothened to adjust it to a broader audience. The aesthetically refined stage poetry largely replaced the radical art of the-body-in-crisis.

Experimentation at the intersection of visual and performative arts focused on the performer’s body also affected the development of new stage-acting strategies. The laboratory work model, which appeared alongside the demands of the Grand/Great Reform of the early 20th century, was revived in a radicalised and, at the same time, systematised, form.

The coinage of “physical theatre” is rather widely applicable. Physical theatre revolves around psychosomatic explorations in which the actor “thinks with the body and, consequently, embodies the mind” (Mond-Kozłowska 2003). Physical theatre (and, analogously, physical dance) artists search for a new formula of stage←37 | 38→ movement. For example, Lloyd Newson, the leader of the DV8 Physical Theatre (like the Judson Dance Theater dancers),

[…] started from observations of everyday behaviours and introduced into dancers’ practice improvisations in which natural movement was creatively reworked […]. The process of preparation for the performance always involves issues directly concerning the actors’ lives. (Fret 2000: 132)

Physical theatre uses physical and psychophysical training based on body and body-mind techniques. In Poland, the most popular training models include Grotowski training (described in Jerzy Grotowski 2007a: 123–216), Gardzienice training (depicted in Zbigniew Taranienko 1997: 130–190, and currently being studied by Małgorzata Jabłońska – 2008: 129–135, 2009: 155–174) and Eugenio Barba Odin Teatret training developed from experiences of the International School of Theatre Anthropology (researched by Katarzyna Julia Pastuszak). The fundamental principles of psychophysical practice are discussed by Philip Zarilli, a theatre theorist and practitioner, in his book Psychophysical Acting (2009: 61–115). The type of training employed in butō can be labelled psychophysical as it is based on various ways of affecting the body conceived as a unity of psychical (mental) and physical (somatic) components.

Transcultural Butō

Butō absorbs, integrates and transforms elements from multiple sources. The heterogeneity of contemporary butō is bound up with what Wolfgang Welsch describes as the “Japanese identity,” which he believes to be “transcultural as a matter of course” (Welsch 2002: 7).9 Welsch is critical about Herder’s concept in which identity is understood in the context of its underlying monolithic culture and claims that “traditional cultures were in fact mixed cultures” (Welsch 2002: 2). These cultures were internally diversified and offered “an ongoing potential which, in the short or long run, on this occasion or on that, some people will turn to again – with a plurality of options resulting anew, or the truly cross-cultural of the so-called ‘national culture’ coming to the fore again” (Welsch 2002: 2–3). Welsch cites Tsunemichi Kambayashi, who stated (at the Art in Asia – External View & Internal Response Conference, Kyoto, 2001) that, in Japan, “there was an ongoing←38 | 39→ play and interplay of two options: one modernist, one traditionalist” (Welsch 2002: 9), and develops his insight:

[I]n Japan different cultural or aesthetic or philosophic styles and models have coexisted throughout history. Once something was established it remained. Buddhism didn’t outdo Shintoism, and modernism didn’t outdo tradition. […] This co-existence of different models (quite uncommon in the West) certainly paved the way to future transcultural blending. People are used to having several models, they aren’t afraid of manifoldness, they don’t have to acquire a new mentality in order to come to terms with contemporary plurality. (Welsch 2002: 9)

Central to my argument is Welsch’s concept which sprouted when he visited Japan. The idea is that:

The Japanese identity, it seems to me, is exceptionally prepared to be transcultural – perhaps it even is transcultural in its structure. One sign of – or precondition for – this is the fact that Japanese people put emphasis on things’ being relevant, being close to them – no matter where the things in question originated from. Japanese people don’t (as seems natural for Europeans) base their access and judgment on the distinction between own and foreign, but rather on the viewpoint of proximity […]. To the Japanese the foreign-own distinction or, to be more precise, the foreign-own distinction with respect to origin is not relevant at all. Their basic perspective is that of proximity. If something fits neatly it is Japanese – no matter where it comes from. This is why things foreign can be considered the own as a matter of course. (Welsch 2002: 7–8)

Since the Japanese identity is structurally transcultural, whatever is absorbed by Japanese culture automatically comes to be regarded as Japanese. According to this model, foreign can be native at the same time. In this context, it makes sense to evoke the idea of the “absolutely contradictory identity” proposed by the contemporary Japanese philosopher Kitarō Nishida (see Nishida 1993). “Paradox nihilism,” as his position can be defined (cf. Kozyra 2004: 277–213), assumes that reality is an internally coherent totality within which contradictions co-exist, which breaches the principle of non-contradiction central to Western formal logic. That the Japanese manner of experiencing reality is untranslatable into the Western way was discussed by the butō dancer Sumako Koseki at a butō workshop held in Srebrna Góra in 2009. The Japanese comprehend the world as a non-dual whole in constant flux.10

Welsch highlights an essential factor in relating to products of culture, i.e. a fascination that appears when we experience a thing as relevant to ourselves, as a←39 | 40→ result of which the thing is no longer remote or bygone. He refers to this aspect of things as presence which makes us recognise various cultural products as our “present challenges” (Welsch 2002: 5). Because the power of such products is not culturally determined, it can work across cultures: “My point is that this primary attraction obviously works independently of familiarity with the respective culture. The power of the work is […] transculturally effective” (Welsch 2002: 7). Of course, butō dance came into being in Japan and, obviously, uses many elements of the Japanese performance culture, spiritual exercises, etc. – in short, of Japanese cultural practices (cf. Klein 1988). Nonetheless, as a result of the fascination it inspires globally, butō can be regarded as “transculturally effective.” What is more, the genre is continuing to develop, for example, by absorbing existing traditions and producing new hybrid forms (e.g. Tebby W.T. Ramasike’s Afro-butō; MoBu, i.e. a synthesis of ballet, modern dance, jazz dance, dance improvisation and butō, developed by Takami Mochizuki Craddock, a San Francisco-based Japanese artist; Butō Dance Therapy – a form of psychotherapy through butō dance practised by the certified choreotherapist Mika Takeuchi in Sapporo; and a combination of juggling art with butō proposed by Jean Daniel Flicker).

The practices of Polish butō dancers also fall under this “broad range of new differences” (Welsch 2002: 3).←40 | 41→


1 The word butō consists of two ideograms: “to dance” and “to step/tread.”

2 Interestingly, in 1954–1972, Japan had its native Gutai group, whose innovative and bold pursuits were later associated with what is referred to as the happening, performance art and, even, conceptual art.

3 “Notational butō” defines dance created on the basis of butō-fu, i.e. score or notation.

4 From Professor Anna Grzegorczyk’s review of this study (2012, pp. 5–6): “In Japan, Hijikata’s work tended to be called miburi-no minzokugaku, which means ‘cultivate ethnology of the body movement.’ The word minzokugaku as used here designates ‘ethnology as a science’ and, more precisely even ‘knowledge of the folklore.’”

5 Hijikata describes the experience of corporeality in Japan’s indigenous rural population in the articles entitled “From Being Jealous of a Dog’s Vein” and “Wind Daruma” (cf. Hijikata 2000b and f).

6 The bulletin is available on the symposium’s website: http://butoh.us/ex-it/pamph99.htm [4.04.2011]; for Yukio Waguri’s words, see http://butoh.us/ex-it/pamph/a-ee28.JPG [Retrieved 4 April 2011].

7 Emotions are similarly understood within the rasa theory as formulated in an old-Indian treatise on theatrical arts entitled Natjaśastra. Rasa designates objective emotions which the actor embodies or personifies during the performance (cf. Wielechowska 2004: 365–375).

8 Initiated by happening, the tendency to engage the audience directly appeared also in Japan, for example in the work of the Gutai group.

9 The section on Welsch’s idea of transculturality was published in a slightly revised form in “Transkulturowość butō. Japonia, Welsch i pytania o tożsamość” in Kultura – Historia – Globalizacja (cf. Zamorska 2010c).

10 Today this kind of thinking is becoming increasingly widespread, also in the West, both in the humanities and in the natural sciences. It was pioneered in the humanities and the social sciences by, for example, Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari.