Archivo de la categoría: Butoh

“Ginbasha” and “Neiro Superlight” by Mutsumi and Neiro (My impressions of the performance)

I went to see “Dance in February” by Mutsumi & Neiro, two dear colleagues I met at Kazuo Ohno Dance Studio almost six years ago during my second travel to study Butoh in Japan. 

The work is simple in its structure, two choreographies (if we want to call them like that) or solo parts, “Ginbasha” and “Neiro Superlight” linked by only one powerful thing, the humanity of the characters/performers. I chose the word ‘humanity’ because most Butoh techniques today try precisely to erase the humanity of the body looking for a primitive nature of it or as many say “killing it”.

This was also not an improvised work but most of it was as fresh as it was improvised, alive as it was the first time they were doing those movements on the stage. But freshness, even as a possible quality of the work, was not the essential thing here. What it was striking for me, touching in many senses, was that they were two worlds doing things, yes, two worlds walking, cleaning, seating, jumping, dancing, watching; two profound microcosmos living on stage, moving their bodies like simple people but in such complexity that only they as performers could do it. And if that was remarkable they didn’t look like they were dancing.

He, dressed with a shirt with no sleeves, white underwear and a clownesque tocado on the head; his skin painted in white and his face lightly remind us a circus performer. She, dressed with many layers of clothes, a wig and a delicate hat with almost no make up, ending with only one brilliant blue leotard.

It was obvious that this was not a normal choreography of Butoh or even a theatrical story, but a piece of two characters. Yes, the presence of the performers was as profound as if they were two well constructed characters. So, in one moment I thought, -this is absurd, there are doing almost nothing but showing us what they are, this is like Theatre of the Absurd. What I’m watching is like a piece written by Beckett with Beckettian characters, with all the absurdity that means watching two human beings alive completely elaborated by the passing of time and the weight of the world over them-.

Watching Neiro and Mutsumi performing their Butoh was watching the masks, the alive costumes of two human beings, who are not capable of changing anything but just living those layers of life. It was sweet, painful, deep, absurd again, and touching but never moved us to tears. Each one of them had soul on stage and that soul moved us around their deep works. 

Here we don’t see any kind of parafernalia of the body, anything but sutil transformation, like -comparisons aside- Kazuo Ohno performing his mother or La Argentina. If there were skills showing in this “technique” that Mutsumi and Neiro used it those were from inner nature, from the soul; they were acrobats of the soul.

I’m happy to have seen this particular Butoh performance, because they are a good reason to understand that the other path in Butoh is alive, that path coming from Kazuo Ohno’s work and that it is full of humanity and artistic endeavour.

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Uri Omoni ‘My mother’ (My impressions)


At the beginning it is strange to watch, it is difficult, it is not easy to get the code of the movement. I realised that I had no instruments to critize the dance I was watching.
I was only a witness of the difficulty a handicapped body had to move on that stage. Between being sleepy and being looking for a sense I started noticing details of that movement, of that new offer to my virgin eyes: her legs completely relaxed but with her feet alive; one hand more expressive than the other but with fingers that could twist like Balinese dancer; those deep black eyes; the impossible shape of the back.

My mind was twisted too, anxious, waiting perhaps for that body to become ‘normal’, agile, skilled and then I could use my educated filters and known artistic parameters to enjoy it.

I had to let it go, waiting for something to happen was not going to be the way.

When that body spoke, when that body was carried out to and in to the stage by black shadows (like in traditional Noh theatre or Bunraku), it changed clothes, played drums, then I saw that the ill body had become the body of a hero, the body of a mythological Titan. Yes, the presence I was watching moving on that stage became immense, and me, I was only a humble and weak ‘normal’ body witnessing the prowess of the unique, because I knew I will never move in that way, I will never dance like that body, because I’m simply incapable of doing it. I don’t have the divine conditions that body has.

The last choreography was she dressed as a beautiful lady, a Madonna perhaps, with an enormous paper flower as a tocado on the hair dancing a painful Aria like she was singing it.
I only let my tears drop on that espace, and I was grateful for being there.

This was a dance performance linked to the handicapped body performed by a handicapped dancer. A dance influenced by Butoh no doubt, but probably -if we understand some of the original Tatsumi Hijikata’s words- a dance that is one of the sources of our dear Butoh.

(The Suzunari Theatre, Tokyo, Japan. Saturday February 9th, 2019)

A Horse’s Neck

(Yuri & Seisaku’s Butoh Workshop)

This evening was raining in Tokyo and at the end of the session the water had become watersnow (you know it is winter in Japan). 

This time I took the subway and not the train, just to try a different way, and I realized that it was 6 minutes walk from the metro station to the room instead of 12 minutes coming from the train station, so it’s worth the change. 

Yuri arrived late, we started with Seisaku doing also the physical training. It was the first time I heard him speaking English; he knows many words but as Yuri speaks better English he is just shy (or lazy) letting her doing all the translations during the workshops. Finally she arrived and continued the physical training till the point we all got exhausted.

For the second part, the Butoh one, Seisaku asked if anyone had a neck injury because the whole session was going to be a work with that part of the body. We all were good and he continued.

He started speaking about the horse and its body, as usual doing the movements himself while doing the indications. 

The most important thing to start here it was the long body of the animal and the movement of the neck coming from the bottom of the spine. 

We had to work in couples: one was the front part of the horse while the other, holding the waist of his/her partner, was the back. 

After that exercise we started the evolutive process he always uses. These are the exercises we worked at the session:

-Movement of the neck and long body of the horse (in couples)

-5 movements of the horse. A kind of basic movements choreography. (The video In posting is from this exercise doing it by Yumiko Yoshioka, Yuri Nagaoka and Kosule Ishiwara)

-Atmosphere around the 5 movements: morning with breeze and fog.

-Consciousness of the house being in a group of houses.

-Adding more details around: following a fly, eating grass, smelling the others, touching.

-The group again but keeping all the 5 actions worked before.

-A free improvisation using everything we’d worked and whatever came to us around the subject.

Then something came as a twist during this series of exercises:

-From the experience of the sounds coming from the horses Seisaku went to explain the movements of the Loch Ness monster as the movements of a dinosaur, with its heavy weight, super long neck and its sound coming from its immense body. The importance of the spine again for the movements of that dinosaur’s neck. We had to work that mythic dinosaur with its heavy weight, long neck in the shape of a S and its deep sound.

-The long neck became then the long -fantastic- neck of the rokurokubi, the famous Japanese ghost. So we worked that ghost with his long twisted neck that he/she doesn’t even know where it goes. (I’m posting the image of rokurokuri drawn by Hokusai)

-Finally a free improvisation being the horse, the dinosaur or the long neck ghost, or the three together if we wanted. Seisaku even remember Hijikata saying the we could become many horses in one moment.

We all truly enjoyed the session, another one when there is very few indications about the personal quality of our work, but mostly the emphasis is to work, to practice. Seisaku comments and laughs and takes photographs while we are working, he is everything but the image of the inspired divinized Butoh master, he doesn’t want to become that. 

But the most enjoyable thing for me, of course, is the process, what I call “the evolutive process to become and be”. Step by step, we work everytime the different levels of a transformation till the moment we become something we’re working on. Here, the philosophy of Butoh is in the practice of becoming.

After the session almost the whole group went to have dinner again. I ate fantastic raw chicken and some unforgettable good cold soba noodles, and went home past midnight again. 

(Thursday January 31st, 2019)

When the master dances with you…

 

Coming from Tokyo to Kamihoshikawa in a weekday is stressing, especially when you don’t know the way trains work in Japan. I spend almost two hours to get to the studio and it is super tiring, mainly because I get anxious about missing my train in one of the three transfers I have to do. This time, luckily, I was there on time.

Yoshito looked less tired and with more energy than last Sunday, and he was ready to demonstrate that to all of us.

The workshop developed almost in the same way than last Sunday with some variations in the order of improvisations: standing still, recognizing the space, looking afar and close like an insect, exploring the five Japanese characters for emotions, dancing without waking up the sleeping baby and living the life and suffering of the Virgin Mary. Today though, he added the exercise with the tissue: feeling the tissue between our hands, exploring the space it provokes between them and dancing with the feeling of its texture. Usually it is a piece of music what we improvise, but this time after the first song ended he asked us to keep dancing for another song and another more, then something more interesting happened: while we were dancing, a colleague student left the group, took a guitar and started to play and sing in Japanese, a very powerful singing and lovely music; we just kept dancing of course. In the middle of the song Yoshito started to dance with us.

It is a very special feeling when your old Butoh teacher dances with you. You don’t stop dancing but you’re totally aware of what he is doing, you give space for his dancing, enjoy his movements close to you, and also, more important, you uses this energy he has in that moment and dance with him. 

In one moment I recalled watching him dancing with his father. His dance was powerful but totally aware that the main dancer there was Kazuo and not him. He was almost still but dancing, because he knew in that moment his place on stage. For me watching him dancing with his father is always a lesson of humility in our profession. I believe I was experiencing something similar tonight; I was learning in practice with him and from him.

(There is a video of the experience. If I can get it I’ll added to the post)

We finished the workshop again improvising another dance in group holding hands with the idea of the full moon with The Moon Sonata by Beethoven as a background. 

During the tea time after the workshop I bought one of his books, one about him: Portrait of Ōno Yoshito by Yomota Inuhiko, and he signed to me. He made the effort of signing with his left hand because the right one is in recovery of an injury. Keiko his daughter told me that the money of the sales of that book is actually a donation for the archive they’re managing now at the studio. 

Going back home I spent more than two hours on the trains because of the evening time (the workshop and tea moment ended at 10 PM). I was home after midnight, super tired but smiling and satisfied, with my new book in my hands and the feeling in my body that today I danced with the old Master.

(Tuesday January 29th, 2019)

Sensei, the Master

(Yoshito Ohno’s Butoh workshop)

Today we danced during one hour and a half. 

Yoshito Ohno sensei gives some words as introduction, concepts and anecdotes around the history of Butoh, all as inspiration, as impulse, some accompanied by illustrations too (photos, paintings, Japanese characters,…). Then, with one or two pieces of music, we dance freely. 

Probably Yoshito Ohno’s Butoh workshop is the most singular you can find in Japan. Many could be lost there, many like me could just feel enormous joy. 

The work is physical but it is not based in physical exercises. It is philosophical, based in personal experiences and complete freedom. 

You stand still during a whole piece of music, look like an insect while walking with an eye in your back; you are also the full moon with all the group, reach the farest lands with your movement, and walk on the same path that Kazuo Ohno did; you suffer like the Virgin Mary and transform your body in the body of a naturally strong bamboo. 

There is no judgment, no pressure, like if art wasn’t there, but it is, for sure, all the time. 

¿Quality? He talks about quality in reference only to Tatsumi Hijikata or to Kazuo Ohno, not about our work.

Freedom and its philosophy open doors and windows inside each one of us during those improvised dances and almost everyone cry once. 

After four years without being there, I found an older man, an older teacher, with some problems to walk and speak, but doing what he has to do, guiding us through the wisdom he got with Butoh.

Kazuo Ohno, the divine, is still there at the studio, but that place today, I felt, it has already become Yoshito’s own place. It is the studio of Yoshito Ohno sensei, the master.

(Sunday, February 27th, 2019)

A tree.

(Butoh workshop with Yuri  Nagaoka and Seisaku)

My first Butoh experience of this season in Japan was at Yuri Nagaoka and Seisaku’s Butoh workshop near Nakano.

The work with them always follows the same structure. First Yuri guides a kind of physical workout that makes the function of a warming up with massages, stretching and lines of movement combining strenght, balance and fluidity; then comes the Butoh work directed by Seisaku: in a series of different exercises (improvisations based in a specific image) we follow a development of transformation through the images of a specific object, today is was a tree. 

Levels worked today:

-roots

-the nurturing from roots to the end of a branch

-the growing of the branches

-the first leaves

-the blossom

-and the tree alive after blossom with its expanded shape full of leaves.

Each level is worked physically from the image of inspiration in a very intricate way linked to our inner body. We are becoming that tree as a result, but not as a goal (at least not from the indications of Seisaku today).

It was surprising to find that Yumiko Yoshioka, the renowned Butoh performer, was there as a student too. I knew about her but never met her before, so I found that she is a very interesting woman and performer, very friendly and charming.

After the work I was more than happy to join them for a dinner at a very good Soba restaurant, and finally I took the subway with Yumiko chatting about Butoh and butohkas along the way. ¿What else could I ask for?

Tomorrow my plan is to take Natsu Nakajima’s workshop.

(Thursday, January 24th, 2019)

The Year I’ve Left Behind…

 

2018 was the year of a new China in my life. I came to live in China again, this time in Guangzhou. Surprisingly I found a very well developed and livable city, until the moment I wanted to create something. Living in an authoritarian society is not easy and I had a taste of it. Even though many things happened, I’m still here. So, I’ve done a short visual retrospective around my creative life in the year I’ve left behind:

 

– In March I did my first Butoh work in Guangzhou at a highway underpass in Ersha Island.

– In June I presented the first phase of my Photo-performance project “Pride Chinese Style” at the gallery of the Mexican Consulate in Guangzhou, with photographs and a performance mixing Tango and Butoh. We also gave a second performance in July.

The website of the whole project: https://gustavothomasteatr.wixsite.com/pridechinesestyle

– In July I started a Photo-performance project with my colleagues of “Humedad Expansiva” in Mexico City aimed for an audiovisual festival in November, doing a live streaming video Butoh performance from China to Mexico. We documented the first streaming transmitted from the South China Botanical Garden in Guangzhou. The project finally didn’t get the support from the Mexican government.

– In August an article I wrote about my encounter with Butoh and my first masters was published in the Mexican magazine Interdanza, thanks to the invitation of Haydé Lachino.

The link to the magazine number: https://archive.org/details/RevistaInterdanza54_201808/page/n13

-In August too I went to Java in Indonesia and performed two Butoh improvisations, one at some rice-field terraces and another one at Sewu, a Buddhist temple inside the Prambanan temple complex.

-In October I had everything ready for a series of performances of my Butoh work “Languid Bodies” at the Watermelon Theatre in Guangzhou, but the day of the first presentation the police arrived and closed the theatre, banning the performance. The reason? That it allegedly was an LGTBQ art work, and therefore not in accordance with China’s values. Even though they were mistaken and there was no LGBTQ content, there was nothing I could do to save the presentations. Luckily for me Chinese photographer Xu Shenghua was at the final rehearsal and documented my presence in Guangzhou through many amazing images.

The website of the work: https://gustavothomasteatr.wixsite.com/languidbodies

The website of the photographs taken by Xu Shenghua: https://gustavothomasbutohblog.wordpress.com/2018/11/30/photographies-shot-by-xu-shenghua-of-my-butoh-work-languid-bodies-in-guangzhou/

– Days later, also in October, I “escaped” to South Korea and performed three Butoh improvisations at marvelous Seoraksan National Park: One at the top of a mountain, one near a simple natural spot, and the third one at the Buddhist temple where I was staying.

– In November I continued my Photo-performance project in Guangzhou, this time with a photo session around the famous Cantonese dress known as Qipao or Cheongsam, posting the results of this exploration in the website of the project.

The webpage with this phase of the project: https://gustavothomasteatr.wixsite.com/pridechinesestyle/qipao

-Finally, in December I travelled to Sichuan Province’s Mount Emei, one Buddhism’s four sacred mountains in China, at which summit I performed a very simple photo Butoh session by some solitary corners of the main temple.

 

2019 looks mysterious to me, with hidden possibilities about what I may do in China with all the censorship around; but luckily, there are many other points of encounter around the world and some windows are bound to open for me.