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My Body, My Butoh

Brilliant short video about Butoh, one my favorite forms of modern dance. Butoh was born in Japan after the atomic blasts. It explores death, destruction, resurrection, presence, purity, horror, the sublime, beauty, the power of a simple gesture, and more.

I'm a huge fan of Sankai Juku, one of the most respected and revered Butoh companies in the world, mentioned in this film. The first time I saw them, with a beloved choreographer friend, I was struck dumb. I was in awe, transported. Butoh changed my life. It gave me something that has never left.

March 17th, 2009

Comments:

Comment #1 by Lance Tango on March 18, 2009 - 3:43am

Rebecca,
You know,Butoh is something which has fascinated me, but has been relegated to the peripherals of my curiosity. Maybe for me it's too visceral, too dark, too animalistic. Yet I simultaneously recognize the power and intensity behind it. There is something about it that seems to bridge that non-verbal part of the brain and that part of the brain which can process very abstract concepts. And then there is the undeniable beauty behind Butoh. Like life, it is both beautiful and bloody - creative and destructive. It's so intense... I can feel my brain "fizzing" out just trying to comprehend Butoh imagery. And then, for me, there is also this immediate association with the Atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I don't think it is a coincidence or an accident that this intense art form evolved out of a culture that had to endure the devastation of two atomic bombs. What do you think? Am I making connections where there aren't any? Am I looking at the art form through the wrong lense?

Comment #2 by rebecca on March 18, 2009 - 10:03am

You are completely right:

"The definition of Butoh is controversial. Although Butoh, by its very nature, defies definition, a simple one can be found in The Dance Handbook (c1988): “Butoh is an “[a]vant-garde Japanese dance form that emerged after the World War II. Its central focus is emotional intensity rather than physical dexterity. Leading practioners inclue the Paris based Sankai Juku and New York based Kei Takei.”

In general, dance writers have called butoh “dance of the apocalypse” in association with the 1945 Hiroshima bombing, or ankoku butoh meaning dance of darkness, in reference to Hijikata’s early explorations. While partially true, such surface definitions, however formal, do not reveal what butoh actually is.

The term “butoh” comes from two Japanese words: bu which means “step” and toh which means “dance”, or literally, “stamping dance.” The father of Butoh, Tatsumi Hijikata(1926-1986), was to Japanese butoh what Martha Graham was to American modern dance.

In the wake of Hiroshima and post-war Japan in the 1950s, when annihilation became possible, butoh was launched by Tatsumi Hijikata in 1959 with the performance of Kinjiki (Forbidden Colors), a choreographic debut which raised a scandal in Japan and had him outlawed by the All Japan Modern Dance Association.

Reversing Beauty

A revolt against the Japanese and Western standards of beauty and the body, butoh pulled the body down from its pedestal. “In this grotesque ugliness and corruption, however, there can be found an irreducible beauty and sweetness which are without equivalent elsewhere,” wrote Japanese dance critic Kazuko Kuniyoshi. “Clearly, butoh has accomplished a reversal in aesthetic consciousness.”

Harnessing Life

More importantly, butoh goes directly to the basic root of the life force as embodied in the body’s deepest physical regions and the mind’s deepest consciousnesses. Thus the emphasis on the imagination and images of the mind, and moving from a physical sensation of consciousness. Thus the focus on rural landscapes and nature imagery native to one’s origins as if trying to reach the body’soriginal state and consciousness. “It is the historically unprecedented discoveries it has made in the realm of physical consciousness, that is the originality of butoh,” Kuniyoshi said.

Hijikata’s critical spirit aimed at the most profound level of physical existence, using “ankoku butoh” as a force which works directly on the foundations of the body, where conservative elements, tastes, instincts and attitudes of Japanese culture bore deep roots, in the region between consciousness and unconscious, where life is not easily adaptable to urbanization of the West. This original consciousness was Hijikata’s greatest contribution to the history of 20th century dance.

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Comment #3 by Heather Lucas on June 5, 2009 - 5:34pm

The very ability of dance is in itself breath and to me what every human has that makes us all the same. It is beautiful to watch Butoh, I love it. It takes my breath away, and is exciting that something so simple yet complex can tatoo my soul the way it does. Hijikata is one of those greats that will stay in the minds and souls of dancers always. I have always used dance as a way to express myself, so this is wonderful to see.

Comment #4 by chlamydia symptoms on July 10, 2010 - 11:26am

As usual, insightful and inspiring. Keep bringing it!

Comment #5 by Sequin Dresses on July 23, 2010 - 3:16pm

I was not aware about Sankai Juku but after watching the video i have realized that they are really great. Expressions are the main key. Dance of this level is simply superb.

Comment #6 by Womens swim shorts on July 29, 2010 - 9:08am

The emphasis on the imagination and images of the mind, and moving from a physical sensation of consciousness.

Comment #7 by Long Evening Dress on August 2, 2010 - 2:58pm

Very Inspiring video. Dance of such level is really wonderful. Perfect and entertaining.

Comment #8 by Hawaii on August 25, 2010 - 3:51pm

Your website is really useful for many people I think. You helped me in various situations because I many times I have found the useful information which was really important for me in your site. Reading this your post I have known many new things about the physical theater which I have not known before. It is really great that you share for us such useful stuff. Thanks a lot one more time for the useful information and I will be waiting for more great news from you in the nearest future.

Comment #9 by Tommy Hilfiger polo on September 2, 2010 - 6:15pm

Beauty! How do they do it? Movement in this dance is really very unusual. Thank you for interesting video.

Comment #10 by Money converter on October 16, 2010 - 10:59pm

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Comment #11 by Chlamydia Symptoms on October 28, 2010 - 5:34pm

Hello. This post is very interesting, and great video...

Comment #12 by Infant Snowsuit on November 1, 2010 - 7:51pm

It is certainly very unique. I've never seen anything like that before in my life. The dancers seem hyper concentrated in the dance.

Comment #13 by hatsshopping on November 11, 2010 - 9:19pm

Big thanks for nice video! Movement in this dance is really very unusual. Thank you for interesting video. This post is very interesting, and great video.

Comment #14 by Coach Outlet Store on December 1, 2010 - 3:41am

Nice blog keep on posting this kind of interesting posts

Comment #15 by griddles on December 1, 2010 - 1:00pm

The word "Brilliant" is actually not enough to describe this intriguing short video. It's great that I actually found this video and read your interesting description.

Comment #16 by John Son on December 1, 2010 - 6:03pm

It is a contemporary form of dance that has little to do with either traditional Japanese dances or most western forms of dance, although it does borrow elements from some of each. I make no attempt to deal with the history and development of the dance here. That can be found on another page.
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Comment #17 by Charming Chick on December 2, 2010 - 5:13pm

Even your own arms, deep inside your body feel foreign to you, feel that they do not belong to you. Here lies an important secret. Butoh's radical essence is hidden here.

Comment #18 by igre on December 6, 2010 - 3:28pm

I have always been enamored by Butoh which is the collective name for a diverse range of activities, techniques and motivations for dance, performance, or movement inspired by the Ankoku-Butoh movement. It is an excellent post.

Comment #19 by link on December 16, 2010 - 7:15pm

I agree with you - butoh is very intriguing based on the very taboo nature of it. It is also one of the few dances that is justified as having much more meaning when not performed in front of an audience. I've never seen a performance or ever really heard of it being performed in modern day - so thank you so much for sharing the video so I could experience it!
- Annie

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oh that's nice!

Comment #21 by Very inspiring video. on December 17, 2010 - 11:10am

Very inspiring video.It is beautiful to watch Butoh, I love this dance...please share more video something like this.
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Comment #22 by Cash Advance Loans on December 22, 2010 - 11:31am

Very Interesting video and good performance. keep it up...

Comment #23 by memphis real estate on January 6, 2011 - 7:19am

It is the first time I have seen this kind of dance. However, it attracted me much. I really like it.

Comment #24 by freedomiq on January 11, 2011 - 8:49pm

Before reading this article, I was not familiar with the Butoh style of dance. After seeing it though, I must say . . .it is rather breathtaking. There is something so organic and raw about the movements. It reminds me of one of my favorite styles of music. Jazz. So complex, so beautiful, yet at times very unrefined and simplistic. Thank you for sharing this with us.

Comment #25 by nike shoes on February 23, 2011 - 6:29am

it is rather breathtaking. There is something so organic and raw about the movements.

Comment #26 by peter on February 23, 2011 - 9:02pm

Silence is more eloquent than eloquence as is said. It is incredible performance. I've enjoyed immensely impressed by the post. thanks for the nice work. engineering design

Comment #27 by meet single online on February 25, 2011 - 8:41pm

I am completely enamored by the butoh for "it explores death, destruction, resurrection, presence, purity, horror, the sublime, beauty, the power of a simple gesture, and more." I've enjoyed reading the post.

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Comment #29 by flour mills on March 10, 2011 - 1:29am

There is something so organic and raw about the movements. It reminds me of one of my favorite styles of music. Jazz. So complex, so beautiful, yet at times very unrefined and simplistic.

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Comment #31 by meet single friends on March 16, 2011 - 7:35am

The video is one of the most excellent piece of dance performance raising the excitement of crowd in a effective way.This is complete pleasure to eyes viewing their performance and soothing their dance in an elegant manner.
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Comment #32 by evansville housing on March 16, 2011 - 10:14am

When i viewed the video clip provided with the post i got frilled,amazed and surprised enough to view such and wonderful piece of art and dance called Butoh.What an deliberated movement of the total body, hand and mind.Butoh truely speaks the suffering of Japan and its people.

Comment #33 by Designer hand bags online on March 20, 2011 - 8:18pm

Dance is one of the most effective portrayal of happenings around the society. It is just another mirror which reflects the true endeavor by the mind, soul and body to free and flee from the influence exerted by the time, space and state. These dance forms are more eloquent, captivating and influential in nature. I always enjoy butoh.

Comment #34 by Jane on March 22, 2011 - 3:48pm

I've never heard of or seen this style of dance before...but I do find it hauntingly beautiful. It's a very though but subtle exploration of themes of death and rebirth, and I can see where it would be inspired after that point.

Comment #35 by junkyard on March 23, 2011 - 8:10pm

The post reminds us of that indelible memory of history which mankind would never aspire for repetition. The Butoh seems to be healing, exonerating and recouping the soul and body. I've enjoyed reading the post.

Comment #36 by Affiliate Script on April 2, 2011 - 2:57pm

Thanks for sharing dear buddy keep it up. Everyone has right to say something. So, Everyone should keep it up. And share more ideas Thanks

Comment #37 by Neon Clothing on April 27, 2011 - 7:19pm

Definitely perfect short video about Butoh, very modern dance style. thanks for the video.

Comment #38 by web designer on May 20, 2011 - 6:29pm

I think if you listen carefully there is no contradiction. My point is that this aesthetic history is not the end story of butoh. Hijikata's early work was far more radical and for many current mature butoh dancers that starting point is more interesting than some of the more codified later developments in the history of butoh.

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Comment #40 by Gerbeur manuel on June 1, 2011 - 1:51pm

Sankai Juku is one of the best scene I have seen !
Thanks

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Comment #45 by berita on July 23, 2011 - 3:29pm

Very artistic. I really enjoy it.

Comment #46 by assurance auto on August 5, 2011 - 7:03pm

Butoh will also stay with me. I went to a show with my insurance colleagues and let me tell you that everybody loved it. And we don't know a lot about dance.

Comment #47 by cirugia de lipoescultura on October 7, 2011 - 2:31am

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Comment #48 by Julia on October 9, 2011 - 8:38pm

A great performance !

Comment #49 by Julian on October 17, 2011 - 12:37pm

This is favorite modern dance video for me too. I hope u search some videos like this and post it here

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