Itto Morita

Old Japanese butoh dancers might say that there are no techniques in butoh. It is one of the confusing announcements that makes people puzzle.

As you see in my butoh article describing the lifting techniques in butoh, there are a variety of techniques in butoh as in other dance forms.

But, I have empathy for those old Japanese butoh dancers.

These days, Hijikata is recognised by his "butoh notation" or "notational butoh" approach, and many foreign butoh people visit his archives in Keio University, Tokyo. It is good because learning old things always give us clues to understand more in any given field, and it is the first thing we should do.

Through my butoh life, I think about butoh techniques as follows:

There are several different phases or stages in techniques.

  1. As a novice, we do not know anything about it, we need to learn basic patterns "kata" (forms or ways) such as seen in butoh notations.
  2. As a performing butoh dancer, we need to make our movements as precise as possible through hard training. But, because more than a half century has passed since Hijikata's days, those performance will be categorised sentimentally as a classical butoh.
  3. As Hijikata himself was a formidable iconoclast of the modern dance in those days, we need to get out of the "kata" constrains or notational butoh for much more creative butoh. I think most experienced butoh dancers are in this phase and have struggled to realize it.
  4. Butoh masters would be performing freely beyond the conscious controls, or those butoh performers or such a butoh performance would make us feel that it is really authentic butoh.

I think that our butoh training with body-mind exercises would be more effective for butoh performers categorised in the second or third phase.

One of my butoh related papers New Understandings of Butoh Creation and Creative Autopoietic Butoh shows some backgrounds of the close encounter of the third kind for the dreamlike "authentic butoh".

But, please try and master the simple arm standing exercise first, one of our body learning exercises so as to undertake butoh training.

Oh, I nearly forgot, a novice with no butoh or dance training sometimes miraculously achieves the fourth phase of butoh. I have to think that God/s praises him or her…Or, it might be really "authentic" in the ordinary sense of the word.

Itto Morita (January 6th, 2017)