Archivo de la categoría: Yoshito Ohno

The path of patience (Small changes during Yoshito Ohno’s Butoh workshop)

I didn’t come to Japan to take Butoh intensive workshops, but to experience the common ground of studying and practicing Butoh with the masters at their places in their common routines. I’m committed to accept the way they teach and share their experiences, and then I’ll go back to my own work, and no more. 

Until now Yoshito Ohno’s workshop has been one of those places where I experienced more inner fights with my Western idea of how a workshop should be and how a teacher should teach. First, going twice a week to Kamihoshikawa from where I’m staying in Tokyo is exhausting; I make two hour travel to go and two going back from door to door. Exhausting probably is also the word to describe the unique style of Yoshito Ohno’s Butoh workshop these days: every time he repeats almost the same propositions to improvise, every time with the same words and choose of music, or at least you feel that way till the moment you start to spot the differences, and when some new proposition comes it is like breathing an air of freshness and novelty.

It wasn’t always that way. I remember my first two times coming to study Butoh with him, he had a quite a varied list of propositions to improvise and he used to be a very long time speecher, but these days he only uses a little group of propositions with minimum speech. 

This is the main structure (all accompanied by music, always the same song for every proposition):

-standing still, we are a work of art;

-meeting the space, the place where Kazuo Ohno created his dances;

-looking for a long range space, dancing in contact with places long afar.

-creating a silent night for the children of the war;

-feeling the blessing and suffering of the Virgin Mary;

-the Japanese characters for body and the body like bamboo;

-four Japanese characters for emotions;

-holding hands together the whole group with Moonlight Sonata and then dancing individually.

This has been almost the same structure since I came in mid January, but some changes happened: 

-he could insist in keeping the same proposition for two or three songs;

-regularly on Tuesday nights a colleague musician plays the guitar and sings while we dance;

-sometimes Yoshito feels the need to dance with us and he does do it;

-and also sometimes, like today, he proposes other improvisations: feeling the tissue and with it the space between our hands; being a flower holding a rose; or using a piece of silk like if the silk texture was our body. 

Today, for instance, he shared more about the impact Kazuo Ohno had in Antony, from Antony and the Johnsons, and we danced with the piece of silk during three songs from the album the musician dedicated to Ohno. And we finished dancing with the tissue. Those were remarkable changes indeed!

After the workshop -he always stays seated near where the CDs are- I approached him and told him I wanted to see what more music he had there, I was curious of course; then I saw an album of Edith Piaf and I expressed my excitement about watching that album there. He asked me to give him the CD, what I did, and asked his assistant to put the music on. After two minutes he was already at the center of the studio wearing a lady’s hat and danced La Vie en Rose. Moving around slowly and sometimes losing his balance Yoshito performed mostly with his left hand and his head, with his eyes. Our old master was inspired today.

Finally, during the tea time, I showed everyone some photos of a lovely Sakura in blossom I stumbled upon at Ueno park, and Yoshito told (in Japanese) to Michiyuki Kato, a dear colleague whos fidelity to the workshop is absolute since many years ago, that at the house garden there was a tree in blossom and he could take me to watch it. It was an Ume tree, a Plum, blossoming ahead of season to and in front of what used to be the last Kazuo Ohno’s bedroom. 

What I’m trying to share, personal experience aside, is that there is some sensitivity that comes when we are open to feel it. Accepting what the workshop is these days, be because Yoshito’s old age or illness, be because it is what it is now, those small changes make a great difference between sessions. It is a training, of course, my training. You know, after some years of working at any field, that not every day can be a new day, but repetition with some changes, with some details, will be the common daily experience. The eyes and ears of our body must be open to those small changes. It is a question of some quotidian deep personal introspection and care. 

That’s when we are rewarded by those simple but remarkable details, not by big new worlds, but by small pieces of land coming from the path of patience.

(Sunday February 17th, 2019)

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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)