Archivo de la categoría: 2019

IN MY SECOND YEAR , MY LIFE BEGAN TO DANCE AGAIN (2019 YEAR'S REVIEW)

I know – if you are not like me – it could be tiring to do this, but the action of making sense of the past throughout a continual revision is, for me, of the same importance as planning the future. So, I’m doing this.

After a 2018 full of attempts and a few successes (The Year I Left Behind), the year that’s just ended was full of creative work and presentations, full of achievements.

January

I received a photograph, taken in the nineties in Mexico City when I was working in “Escenologí­a”, a performing arts research institute and publishing house directed by researcher Edgar Ceballos, where my dreams of being part of a theatre company that provided the group atmosphere and creativity inspired by Jerzy Grotowski’s and the Odin Teatret’s work were almost realized. What I did achieve during those years was a very powerful and deep technical and ethical education coming from many sources linked to Grotowski and The Odin Teatret (we worked with Eugenio Barba, Julia Varley and Roberta Carrieri, just to name a few), but especially our principal and main training coach, Jaime Soriano, himself a direct disciple and collaborator with Grotowski. The contact with the different researchers Edgar Ceballos was meeting and publishing (in books and magazines) gave me, of course, a performing arts culture I was dreaming to have. Watching these photos pushed me to address the problems of working in Guangzhou; this energy and impulse came directly from the source, no doubt about it.

These are two different photographs, both with the same spirit I was talking before: one, a general photo taken when Teatro Potlach came to Escenologí­a to have a look at our work and give us some feedback; the second one, taken during the rehearsal of a piece we never premiered. Of course, the photos are cropped a bit so you can see me better.

January/February/March

Japan again!

I was expecting this moment since 2014. I had saved enough money (Japan is super expensive) for the flight, accommodation, food and fees. I was close to Tokyo (Guangzhou is less than 4 hours away by plane). I really needed to see master Yoshito Ohno and dance with him again at the Kazuo Ohno Dance Studio. And I wanted to get in touch again with all the other masters that are working in Tokyo: the great Natsu Nakajima, Yuri and Seisaku (there I had the opportunity to meet and train with Yumiko Yushioka), and Kudo Taketeru. I had the chance to have a basic workshop with Takao Kawaguchi about his experience with “About Kazuo Ohno”, and a surprisingly interesting class with two colleagues from Yoshito’s workshops, Mutsumi and Neiro.

My goal was to have a total immersion in the current Japanese Butoh world, and you bet I did. I took lessons almost every day (sometimes two different classes in different parts of the city or between two cities in one day) from the end of January till the beginning of March. I went to see dozens of performances, listening to conferences and talks, homages, exhibitions, and I even paid two visits to the Hijikata Butoh Institute at Keiko University where researcher Takashi Morishita gave me all the facilities to feel in that place like in my own personal library. One day, on my way to the Hijikata Institute, I passed by an area of old bookshops, where I found a good edition of the book “Ba-ra-kei: Ordeal by Roses” by photographer Eiko Hosoe, with images of Yukio Mishima –  both very important figures for Butoh in Japan.

My last day I interviewed Master Yoshito Ohno about his work life and his ideas of an uncertain future after his heart attack, which partially paralyzed his body.

At the moment I was writing this year’s revision I learned that – exactly one year after this visit to Japan – master Yoshito Ohno, the dancer who with Tatsumi Hijikata gave the first Butoh performance in history, son of the great Kazuo Ohno, has passed away. I am sad and I have a terrible feeling of being lost. I know that, little by little I will only feel thankful for all that I learned by listening to him and dancing with him. My thoughts and love are with his wife, his daughter Keiko and all the Ohno family, as well as with my colleagues, friends and people close to the Kazuo Ohno Dance Studio.

My life in Japan literally nourished on Butoh.

Of course, I cannot show here my whole experience in Japan, but these photographs will help me share part of it. Also, there are many other posts in this blog about my experiences during that trip:

March

March came with a surprise trip to Mongolia. I probably don’t have much to say about me and Butoh during this trip, but there was a lot about this culture I’ve always been interested in, especially its throat singing and the shamanism of the north of the country. Both (throat singing and shamanism) are very much the source of performing arts as a biological body in performance

The highlight of that trip was a shamanistic ritual on frozen Khövsgöl Lake. You can read about my whole experience in the post I dedicated to it. (link)

In Ulaanbaatar I went to listen to throat singing at a very tourist-oriented performance. Nevertheless, the technique was there and it was spectacular. I was also lucky that, during a camel festival in the south, in the village of Bulgam Sum, in the Gobi desert, I got to listen to some villagers singing some improvised traditional chants in an ankle bones match. You can listen to part of the chanting by following this link: https://soundcloud.com/gustavo-thomas-teatro/canto-y-juego-gobi-mongolia-2019

April

While I was preparing two Butoh pieces and one photography exhibition for June, I went to see one of China’s iconic natural marvels, staying at Jima village, near the city of Yangshuo in the the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. There I did two interesting improvisations with incredible natural settings as background. Sunsets those days were spectacular, so I timed one of those improvisations to happen as the sun set. I can say it was magical, because it really was.

May

In May I devoted myself to the creative process of the performances and the photo exhibition, and also added the task of transcribing the recorded interview I did to master Yoshito Ohno and then translating it to Spanish. While doing some research on Yoshito Ohno, I found some other interviews and materials of his autobiography that helped me understand the important role this man has played in the creation and promotion of Butoh since the very beginning. I started posting some of those findings as quotations and commentaries on my own personal experience of training at his side.

June

The Mexican Consulate made good on its promise and offered me its events hall once more to show the second phase of my photo-performance project “Pride, Chinese Style”, which this time I called “Qipao, A Gender Game”. Like the year before, my collaboration took place during the LGTBQ Film Festival different consulates in Guangzhou organize. My performance and the photography exhibition were in fact the opening to one of the film screenings. This second phase gave me the opportunity to work again with Wing (Ho Hoiwing, en mandarín He Hairong, 河海荣), this time as male model wearing a qipao, stepping up from documentary photography to a stage concept: what’s the fuzz when a man wears a women’s iconic dress? The results were pretty good, I think, and the reaction of the people who attended was fantastic.

The photo-gallery shows first the photographs I showed at the exhibition, and then the photos of the performance at the consulate.

July

As you probably already know, LGTBQ public activities are prohibited in China. That’s why it was only possible to show my project “Pride Chinese Style” inside of a foreign consulate in Guangzhou. I was advised that it was possible to present my exhibition and performance outside the consulates if I announce it as a private event without an open public publicity or ticket sale. So, I did it. This second presentation of Qipao, A Gender Game was at Jueyuan 1985, a beautiful 1920s brick house in the historical neighborhood of Dongshankou. The performance was a little different from the first show at the Mexican Consulate, Wing and Atta (my model and the one of the dancer directors of the Tango house) participated mixing their Tango with my Butoh. I was lucky that a good photographer was there to take these beautiful documents of that night.

August

Invited by Jasmine, an enthusiastic Chinese woman who owns a few independent venues in Guangzhou, to do a performance at her Café Theatre “Zhile” (知乐), I started my new project (at that moment, I was envisioning one called “Study of the Properties of Water”). I worked on my own and also had some meetings with Michael Garza, a friend and United States bassoonist who plays for the Guangzhou Symphonic Orchestra. I had to put a brief pause on that work to make a trip to the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, to an area close to the borders with Pakistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, and home to one of the most culturally vigorous – yet politically conflicted – Muslim minorities in China, the Uyghurs. The region is known also for its amazing natural beauties. On my way from Tashkorgan to Kashgar, near the lake Bulungkul, I did a short improvised performance with a background of amazing icy blue waters and enormous white sand dunes and snow-capped mountains.

August/September

Michael Garza and me decided to apply ourselves to the creative process during all of September and up to our presentation, after the National Day holidays. I decided to fuse together two projects, “Study of the Properties of Water” and “The Passing of Time”, and this was the long final name of the work. Michael worked on 10 very powerful pieces for bassoon, some classics, some by contemporary Asian composers, while I worked on my inner story with inspiration coming from paintings of different states of water by Chinese Sung dynasty painter Ma Yuan and the idea/impulse of time passing inside my body.

Here you have some documents about that intense creative process.

October

“Study of the Properties of Water and the Passing of Time” was performed at Zhile Art Space in Ersha Island, Guangzhou. Our 50 minute-long bassoon and Butoh performance was done before a full house and with what I can say great success. The attention and response of the public was deep and emotional, and the Q&A session afterwards passionate. I totally loved the experience.

The photographs were taken by several of the spectators present.

November

At long last! “Languid Bodies”, my Butoh and Video piece created in Mexico City in 2014 together with video artist Omar Ramírez. With one failed attempt in 2018 (when the show was cancelled by the police an hour before the performance due to a misperception of its content), in November 2019 I presented it at the Mexican Consulate as part of the commemoration of the International Day for the Elimination Violence against Women. Undoubtedly, no context would have been more ideal for this kind of piece.

The events hall of the Mexican Consulate is not a theatre in a proper sense, but I managed to transform it into a very basic stage, with some unavoidable visibility problems. The public was a mix of foreigners and Chinese. It made me happy that the video created by Omar, even though projected in a small format, made a very strong impression in the public and was well appreciated and even put at the same level of relevance as the Butoh piece itself. I’m personally very fond of this work and I felt more than blessed by the response to it here in China.

December

After an invitation by Jasmine, the manager at Zhile Art Space, to participate at the Guangzhou Outdoor Arts Festival (lucky me!), I created “Masks”, a 50-minute Butoh and physical theatre performance. The GOA Festival 2019 attracted hundreds of spectators every day during all December, and the day of my presentation was no exception. I was afraid to face the monster, but that was no monster, it was a beautiful creature, attentive and open to be touched.

The night after the performance I wrote:

Deeply satisfied with Masks’ presentation yesterday night at the GOA festival in Guangzhou. A very special outdoor setting, I would say spectacular. A huge audience (something like 400 people), attentive and with great response to my work. It was broadcast online throughout China on two different channels and, from what I know about just one of those channels, more than 4000 people were watching the performance.

 Also, there was even a Korean artist among the public that drew what she saw during the performance.

I’m so grateful to Jasmine, my favourite Chinese producer, and to AG, the director of the GOA Festival, who believed in my work. I feel I’m a very lucky person.

And the festival article reviewing the performance was very kind to me:

“来自墨西哥,目前驻地在广州的舞踏艺术家 Gustavo Thomas(古斯塔沃·托马斯)此次上演的舞踏作品《面具》,是他专门为 GOA 创作的全新作品。艺术家神秘而具有浓厚跨文化色彩的演出令在场市民目不转睛,从孩童到大人,皆为他的作品献上了热烈掌声。”

Mexican Butoh artist Gustavo Thomas, who currently resides in Guangzhou, presented the piece “Masks”, created by him specifically for GOA. The artist’s mysterious and strong cross-cultural performance firmly held the attention of those present, from children to adults. His piece received enthusiastic applause.

The year ahead is – as is usual in my life – unpredictable, but I’m feeling that I’m learning (and starting to use what I’ve learned) to work in a very unpredictable surrounding. I have at least three projects in the making and some collaborations with other artists.

We’ll see what happens…

“Lo que está en el centro de mis actuaciones está inevitablemente vinculado a mi existencia diaria.” (Yoshito Ohno)

Yoshito Ohno:

“Como constantemente pongo todo lo que tengo en mis performances, cada aspecto de mi existencia, incluso mi vida familiar se absorbe en el proceso creativo. Es algo inevitable y simplemente no puedo decir que no cuando algún miembro de la familia expresa se deseo de inmiscuirse completamente en el proceso. Al aceptar esas ofertas la cuestión es entonces cómo encontrar puntos en común dados nuestras diferencias en gustos sea en música u otros aspectos. Nunca ha sido nada excepcional el que mi esposa esté envuelta en el cuidado de mi vestuario y otras cosas de mi trabajo. Ella será siempre la primer persona que consultaría sobre qué usar en escena. Lo mismo aplica para otros miembros de la familia: cuando ellos rechazan algo simplemente es así como debe de ser.

Si pudiéramos hacer una distinción entre lo imaginario y lo real, entonces el trabajo escénico se construye sobre el imaginario. Sin embargo, sin estar familiarizados con los entresijos de la existencia diaria, no podemos crear un mundo imaginario. Crear algo de sustancia implica una gran cantidad de atención a los detalles de nuestra vida cotidiana y a la reflexión sobre nuestros encuentros diarios con el mundo real. Este proceso me implica examinar el significado no solo de mi forma particular de hacer Butoh sino también de lo que el Butoh en general significa en mi vida. Lo que está en el centro de mis actuaciones está inevitablemente vinculado a mi existencia diaria.”

(Yoshito Ohno, “Butoh: Un camino de vida”. Yokohama, Japón. 2015.)

(Texto original en inglés y japonés)

(Yoshito Ohno en escena mientras su esposa lo mira atrás desde bambalinas)

La primera ocasión que fui al estudio de Kazuo Ohno descubrí que el estudio estaba dentro de la propiedad en donde la familia Ohno vive. Ahí había vivido Kazuo Ohno con su esposa y familia, y ahí ahora vive Yoshito Ohno con su esposa, quien guarda una respetuosa distancia siempre que están los estudiantes. A ella fue quien vi por primera vez cuando llegué la primera noche a tomar el ansiado taller en el estudio. Estaba en la cocina y de inmediato llamó al maestro Yoshito, él me saludó y me dijo que pasara al estudio. Unos años después en Montreal (yo vivía en Canadá en ese tiempo) fui a tomar una clase con Yoshito Ohno y ella tras él llevaba una enorme maleta con flores, seda, algodón y otros aditamentos que el maestro regularmente usa en sus talleres; recuerdo haber notado que cuidadosamente acomodaba todo los materiales para que estuvieras listos y a la mano cuando Yoshito los necesitara; días más tarde también salió de los camerinos detrás de él después de la función que dio en el Atélier de la Danse.

Su hija, Keiko Ohno, está cerca de todo aquello que hace su padre en el estudio, talleres y archivo; lleva una especie de diario de cada sesión del taller y en cada presentación u homenaje, al menos en Japón, está presente.

Aún cuando Yoshito Ohno está solo en el escenario, su trabajo sobre la escena es un asunto de familia, sin duda.

El Butoh entre los Ohno, desde la presencia de Kazuo, el padre, ha sido un asunto de familia, como si hubiera sido una tradición heredada. Kazuo Ohno lo inició alimentándolo con los recuerdos de su madre y acercando a los vivos mismos a su producción. Sin duda el centro de las danzas de Yoshito Ohno está inevitablemente vinculado a la existencia diaria que tiene con los vivos y muertos que lo rodean.

(Yoshito Ohno durante su taller en la escuela de danza de Montréal en 2013. Al lado izquierdo su esposa sentada, manejando el sonido)

(Keiko Ohno junto a su padre Yoshito Ohno en 2013. A la derecha está el estudio de danza y a la izquierda está la casa de la familia Ohno)

(Yoshito Ohno bailando con Kazuo Ohno títere en el estudio, en enero de 2019, mientras es observado por dos de sus hijas y su esposa)

(Estos textos son parte de un proyecto de traducción y análisis personal para acercar al mundo de habla española la filosofía y la vida de Yoshito Ohno, quien ha formado parte del Butoh desde su origen y a quien considero mi maestro)

¿Por qué no orar mientras danzamos?

Yoshito Ohno:

“Durante los años de guerra cuando estábamos viviendo en Katsuura, mi abuela me hacía acompañarla al templo todos los días. Había muchos templos y capillas en las cercanías, y ella se comprometía a sí misma a ir a cada uno de esos templos, aún a la iglesia local. Insistía en decir que los lugares de culto eran indispensables. Cada vez que entraba a uno de esos templos se la pasaba orando mientras que yo andaba por ahí jugando. Mi abuelo y mi abuela era devotos creyentes de Jodo Shinshu (budismo de la tierra pura). Cuando preguntaba a mi abuela: -“¿por qué rezas tanto tiempo?”, su respuesta era: -”Rezo por todos, así que aunque cuando tuviera todo el tiempo del mundo no sería suficiente”. Sí, ella se pasaba tanto tiempo orando porque debía hacerlo por y para todos. Se sentaba ahí por horas a rezar, aún cuando íbamos de regreso a casa. Estaba continuamente inmersa en la oración a lo largo de toda su vida.

A mis diez años fui a Yokohama siguiendo a mi padre (Kazuo Ohno) a su regreso de Nueva Guinea después de su liberación del campo de prisioneros. La casa donde vivíamos estaba en el subterráneo de la Mission School, la escuela cristiana en la que mi padre enseñaba. Como había una iglesia en la escuela también los domingos me mandaban ahí. Mis años de secundaria y preparatoria los pasé en la Mission School. Como mis padres eran cristianos, mi hermano mayor fue bautizado sin demora. Sin embargo, siendo educado en tan religiosa atmósfera, yo no fui nunca bautizado. Yo estaba cercano al budismo debido a las visitas de mi abuela a todos los templos y capillas. Habiendo siendo testigo de su gran fervor religioso me fue difícil alejarme de las creencias del budismo que estaban ya enraizadas dentro de mí. Aún así no soy devoto de ninguna religión como tal.

En años recientes estudiantes de todo el mundo vienen al estudio buscando aprender más sobre el Butoh; así que tenemos estudiantes de lugares tan alejados como India y China, y de variadas creencias religiosas: musulmanes, hindúes, budistas y cristianos. Así que siempre hago una sugerencia durante las sesiones de los talleres: -“¿por qué no oramos mientras danzamos?”. Creo que “orar” es significativo en esta idea de orar por la felicidad de los demás y que es algo que todos tenemos en común, más allá de nuestras creencias religiosas individuales.”

(Yoshito Ohno, “Butoh: Un camino de vida”. Yokohama, Japón. 2015.)

¿Por qué no orar mientras danzamos?Yoshito Ohno: “Durante los años de guerra cuando estábamos viviendo en Katsuura, mi abuela me hacía acompañarla al templo todos los días. Había muchos templos y capillas en las cercanías, y ella se comprometía a sí misma a ir a cada uno de esos templos, aún a la iglesia local. Insistía en decir que los lugares de culto eran indispensables. Cada vez que entraba a uno de esos templos se la pasaba orando mientras que yo andaba por ahí jugando. Mi abuelo y mi abuela era devotos creyentes de Jodo Shinshu (budismo de la tierra pura). Cuando preguntaba a mi abuela: -“¿por qué rezas tanto tiempo?”, su respuesta era: -”Rezo por todos, así que aunque cuando tuviera todo el tiempo del mundo no sería suficiente”. Sí, ella se pasaba tanto tiempo orando porque debía hacerlo por y para todos. Se sentaba ahí por horas a rezar, aún cuando íbamos de regreso a casa. Estaba continuamente inmersa en la oración a lo largo de toda su vida.A mis diez años fui a Yokohama siguiendo a mi padre (Kazuo Ohno) a su regreso de Nueva Guinea después de su liberación del campo de prisioneros. La casa donde vivíamos estaba en el subterráneo de la Mission School, la escuela cristiana en la que mi padre enseñaba. Como había una iglesia en la escuela también los domingos me mandaban ahí. Mis años de secundaria y preparatoria los pasé en la Mission School. Como mis padres eran cristianos, mi hermano mayor fue bautizado sin demora. Sin embargo, siendo educado en tan religiosa atmósfera, yo no fui nunca bautizado. Yo estaba cercano al budismo debido a las visitas de mi abuela a todos los templos y capillas. Habiendo siendo testigo de su gran fervor religioso me fue difícil alejarme de las creencias del budismo que estaban ya enraizadas dentro de mí. Aún así no soy devoto de ninguna religión como tal.En años recientes estudiantes de todo el mundo vienen al estudio buscando aprender más sobre el Butoh; así que tenemos estudiantes de lugares tan alejados como India y China, y de variadas creencias religiosas: musulmanes, hindúes, budistas y cristianos. Así que siempre hago una sugerencia durante las sesiones de los talleres: -“¿por qué no oramos mientras danzamos?”. Creo que “orar” es significativo en esta idea de orar por la felicidad de los demás y que es algo que todos tenemos en común, más allá de nuestras creencias religiosas individuales.”(Yoshito Ohno, “Butoh: Un camino de vida”. Yokohama, Japón. 2015.)

Texto original de la cita anterior en inglés y en japonés.

En la bitácora de unas de mis primeras sesiones (mayo de 2011) en el estudio de Kazuo Ohno en Yokohama, escribí:

“Ellos entonces, los maestros creadores, son nuestro punto de partida y nuestra inspiración. A ellos también ofrecemos nuestro trabajo. 

Y antes de toda ofrenda, aprendemos a orar.

Nunca antes, hasta el primer día de trabajo con el maestro Yoshito Ohno, había escuchado la idea de orar en escena, de una manera tan simple, y sin implicar ninguna religión. Varios maestros occidentales me habían hablado de un espacio sagrado de trabajo, pero parecían burdos intentos de sacralizar algo que nos era ajeno totalmente.

Cuando mi primer ejercicio con el maestro Ohno fue simplemente orar, algo nuevo apareció: en su manera de decirlo (tuve la enorme suerte de que se me tradujera en tiempo real durante esa sesión), en sus tonos, en su mirada, la indicación era diferente; habría que dar el primer paso orando, el primer ejercicio, es decir, el primer movimiento, la primera improvisación de movimiento. 

El primer paso es, siempre, orar. 

Yoshito Ohno nos explicaba que la danza Butoh nació del recuerdo en Hijikata y Kazuo Ohno de las terribles tragedias de la segunda guerra mundial, de su odio y de su dolor; hablaba de cómo Kazuo había sufrido en su travesía de regreso de Filipinas a Japón, de cómo había visto morir a la gente dentro de su barco, y que con ellos rezaba, con esas imágenes, y que también a ellos les ofrecía su movimiento. Entonces preguntaba ¿qué hay en tu rezo?, ¿sobre qué rezas tú?, ¿por quién rezas tú? Así comenzábamos a movernos.

Cada día la frase inicial de trabajo era “oren” (en inglés para mí, “pray”, y en japonés para los otros, inoru 祈る)… Entonces iba hacia donde estaba el sistema de sonido y comenzaba a poner discos, dos, tres, cuatro piezas: el Ave María de Schubert (tan apreciado por Kazuo), Il mio babbino caro (por María Callas), Amazing Grace, o piezas de música budista. Y entonces orábamos, día a día, y cada sesión, y en su repetición nuevas posibilidades de oración estaban en nosotros: oré por aquellos muertos que vió Kazuo, por lo míos propios, oré por la imagen de un Kazuo moribundo, por los pies del cadaver de Hijikata, oré por mi propio pasado… y me moví, como los otros que estaban ahí que también oraban y se movían.

De esa oración surgió la ofrenda, nuestro movimiento como una ofrenda: la historia de esa ofrenda de Kazuo por todos esos muertos era profundamente poderosa, de la misma manera aquella en la que dedicaba sus bailes a su madre, al gran cariño que sentía por ella, donde su rezo se convertía en la sensación de un cordón umbilical sobre la escena que era en realidad una enorme matriz.

Esa ofrenda era una petición, petición a nuestras fuerzas, petición al espacio, contacto con él, todos nuestros sentidos en él, con las cuatro esquinas, los cuatro lados, con el suelo, con el cielo.

Nuestro movimiento no debía ser externo, el rezo y la ofrenda debían ser internas: “Nadie sabe cómo debes tú rezar y ofrecerte, sólo tú, encuentra tu rezo, encuentra tu camino de ofrecimiento moviéndote”. Es una continua exploración.” 

(“En el inicio están los fundadores, la oración y la ofrenda. (Aprendiendo Butoh con Yoshito Ohno)”. Gustavo Thomas Butoh Blog. Mayo, 2011. Yokohama, Japón.)


                        *

(Estos textos son parte de un proyecto para acercar al mundo de habla española la filosofía y la vida de Yoshito Ohno, quien ha formado parte del Butoh desde su origen)

Qipao, A Gender Game (A Photoperformance in Guangzhou, China)

It’s been a year since I presented the first phase of my photoperformance project “Pride Chinese Style” and it came the opportunity to show the advances of the second phase, exactly during the same event I did last year, the LGTBQ festival around the consulates in Guangzhou. As you may know, there is no way to have any event directed to the LGTBQ community in Guangzhou because is considered illegal by the Chinese government, so the only way the LGTBQ community has found is through the foreign representations in the city, including, proudly, the Mexican Consulate which has been very supportive in all events around gender equality.

This time I’ve been working around a quintessentially Chinese dress, Qipao or Cheongsam (as it is called in Cantonese), which has become a symbol of femininity in China and beyond, and then I play a simple gender twist: it is not a woman but a man who’s wearing the qipao, not as a drag but mostly as a man using proudly a dress directed to dress only women.

This phase of the project is not a documental idea of the queer community in Guangzhou, as I intended in the first one, but more into an staging, a creative game with a very simple subject. You’ll be the judge, but more than that I hope you experience this as public, putting in mind the social moment China is living right now.

“Qipao, A Gender Game” is structured in two parts: the photo exhibition and the Butoh and dance performance, but little by little I’ve been mixing both, be during the photoshoots or even during the presentations.

The first show of this second phase will be at the Mexican Consulate in Guangzhou next June 12th, 2019, ti will be there during all the month and later will move to another venue to confirm yet.

Here you hace some of the documents around. Of course you can find much more on the Website of the project: Pride Chinese Style

About the Butoh work…

(All photographs by Gustavo Thomas and Xu Shenghua)

A shamanic ritual in Northern Mongolia


We could say that Shamanism in Mongolia has almost disappeared as it has happened in many other parts of the world these days, but some parts in the north of the country are trying to keep alive this religious tradition, and they are doing it mainly because it is a popular believe among Mongolian people that shamanism actually works, and also because it is a good source of revenue from tourism national and international. 

The frozen Khovsgol Lake in northern Mongolia (Gustavo Thomas © 2019)

Knowing that the Ice festival in Khovsgol was holding a shamanistic ritual the night of its first day, I was looking forward to be there and watch it. Of course I was aware that this was not a purist exhibition of tribal ancient shamanism. What I was interested in was experiencing an event like this as it is performed nowadays, I was thinking in a mix of spectacle and healing ritual.

During the day visiting the festival I had a short visual introduction when I saw some folk sculptures depicting shamans in trance.

The Ice festival is hold on a large area of the frozen lake Khovsgol so it is the shamanic ritual. Cars and buses park on the frozen lake too, and from the parking place we had to walk on the ice in the dark among crowds of people, food and beverages stands, electronic music bars and whatever was happening in a popular festival at night. Once we got to the event place everything was even more chaotic: hundreds of people around the ritual space delimited by a fence, at the middle a kind of Native American teepee (I apologize for my ignorant comparison), but only made of long and dry tree branches with attached colourful ribbons, and around that kind of tent I counted other four smaller dry bushes all prepared to be burned; people walking from one part to the other inside the fence area preparing something that I couldn’t know exactly what; also there journalists, photographers and even a TV crew with their lights and mics making interviews. 

Trying to find a good place where to watch I kept myself going from one place to another during the whole event, staying at the best a few minutes at one spot before being literally pushed away by other spectators. 

There was a voice of a man all the time speaking with a microphone (later that night the guide told us that this man was giving information about what was happening, only in Mongolian, but from his point of view it was an excess of information), like narrating a sport event in real time. 

After a few minutes in that chaos I could differentiate the image of the shaman, a woman. She was walking all around the place looking to the floor and to the sky; she started to spit some liquid from her mouth and then with a bottle flicking the liquid to the audience who reacted at unison, all shouting the same words and trying to reach the flicked water with their hands. Not much after that the shaman was moving quicker, jumping; also being hold by other people she was fainting. From afar I could observe her face, she was in a trance, with her eyes closed and making rhythmics noises with her voice. Jumping again -always in a very rhythmic way- her dress, made of pieces of clothes and animals, gave me the impression of an expanded body, like feathers, like growing wings. Then some of the men around made her to wear a mask and a kind of hat (or tocado) made with two long feathers, looking from afar it looked possibly like a rabbit, but I’m sure it was more like trying to be some kind of bird, probably an eagle. The last addition was a hand drum, a large circular hand drum, which she started to play rhythmically while singing. A sound that even with the noisy crowd surrounding us we all could listening to very clear. The small bushes were already on fire.

The now transformed shaman started to dance or moving rhythmically all around the place touching some people, hitting some others with the drum and with the stick, sometimes falling to the floor and going again to jump rhythmically. Someone lighted the main bush and a great fire took the main stage. Probably it was the night, the wind or the movements around, but that great fire got to my eyes the shape of some human and animal forms: the animistic world was there and think we all there were living in it as well. 

I guess watching the next images you will agree with me about those shapes of the big fire that night.