Unconscious body

(Natsu Nakajima’s Butoh Workshop)

My second session of Butoh was at Natsu Nakajima’s Workshop in Yotsuya near Shinjuku.

She is now a legend of Butoh of course, and she’s still very active in her seventies doing work with handicapped people, body therapies and of course Butoh.

I met Natsu only once in my last visit to Japan, but I remember very well her work and I really wanted to take more lessons with her, and of course I was not disappointed at all. 

The workshop takes place at a subterranean gallery inside a large community centre. She didn’t remember me, but she was aware of my visit thanks to Lola Lince who sent her a message telling her about me. They both should be very close because Natsu really took care of me during the workshop and appreciate that. 

The structure of today’s session was very simple: first, therapeutic massage in couples and some breathing exercises; then the Butoh work goes on. 

Natsu talked about the use of the unconscious body, not as a goal in Butoh, but as a medium. So, every time we did an improvisation the goal was letting go the movement, first with breathing, then with music, with voice. 

We also did an exercise coming from modern dance technique (secrets of the work of Kazuo Ohno she said): following the music one dancer lets go the movement but this time taking care of rhythm and tempo and trying to find through improvisation a personal choreography, while other performer follows his/her lead, getting inspiration of that leading movement and trying to imitate the other. Not to think, but following the other.

Finally we were ready to do it in group, using everything we found during the session working with two very different styles of music, but doing with the second music the same movements (improvised choreography) we found in the first. 

Natsu recalled some words by Hijikata, something like “dancing in a group cuts the head”.

Of course I felt liberated, even with the technical difficulty that brought the modern dance technique exercise. 

Natsu Nakajima doing a demostration of one exercise.

You know? There is a strange feeling that this is a very simple work, but thinking about what I did today, it could not happen without all the wisdom and work history of a great guide and teacher like Natsu Nakajima. She actually made it simple, but it wasn’t it at all.

No doubt I’ll make the effort to come every week till the end of my stay in Japan. 

Next workshop? This Sunday with my dear Butoh teacher, Yoshito Ohno. 

(Friday January 26th, 2019)

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