Butoh is an avant-garde art form developed in Japan in the 1950’s. Born at the height of the Japanese Counter Culture Movement, Butoh was influenced by surrealism, neo dadaism, mime techniques, ballet, flamenco, and German Expressionist dance. Tatsumi Hijikata and Ohno Kazuo, in collaboration with other artists, founded the form together and then diverged into distinct forms from one another, one choreographed, the other, improvised. Hijikata developed a strictly choreographed method, while Kazuo Ohno, preferred improvisation, performing well into his 90’s all over the world, favoring an expansive, spiritual approach to butoh.
Starting in the late 60’s early 70’s, female butoh dancers such as Yoko Ashikawa, Natsu Nakajima, Saga Kobayashi entered the Butoh scene and profoundly influenced the course of the art form and its development.
Today, there is a wide spectrum of butoh expressions, and the art form ranges from a minimalist expression, to wild and primal, to the grotesque and theatrical. Since the 1970’s, Butoh and its influence has been spreading into the Western World, with the vast majority of the second generation butoh leaders having settled in Europe. With the third and fourth waves of Butoh practitioners developing, there is a rich cross-cultural exchange occurring worldwide with Butoh being practiced today in Europe, North and South America, Australia and Asia.
Butoh comes from “Ankoku Butoh” and means “Dance of Utter Darkness”. All human beings carry an unconscious side. Although it is tempting to stereotype butoh, “Darkness” in butoh refers to what is hidden from our awareness, our unconsciousness and does not have Judeo Christian connotations.
Diego Pinon will be offering his work, Body Rital Movement, as one of our two Intensive Classes for Touch&Play Asheville 2019.
In addition to his Mexican heritage and traditional energetic practices, Diego’s work draws from his extensive background and exploration of Japanese Butoh dance under the guidance of Kazuo Ohno, Yoshito Ohno, Min Tanaka, and Natsu Nakajima, among others.
“There is a saying in China: ‘a hundred (different) flowers are in full bloom.’ This understanding of every individual shining in their own unique beauty inspires my work. Butoh is an opportunity to cultivate the seed of care and consciousness that dwells within each of us”
-Yumiko Yoshioka, Butoh dancer, choreographer, and teacher.
“Butoh is an explosive, convention-shattering performance art that has redefined the limits of dance and theatre. The form was created by a handful of avant-garde postwar Japanese artists who drew upon their native agrarian myths, the iconoclastic theatre of Antonin Artaud, and the influences of Western modern dance.
But Butoh is more. It is perhaps the most daring attempt yet made to translate the mysterious, often tormented life of the unconscious into the communal medium of theatre.”
-From the dust jacket of Butoh. Dance of the Dark Soul, 1987.
“Butoh is just a Japanese name. There are many parallel dances elsewhere. When I first saw the Omizutori, the fire festival on the hillside at Nara, an ancient religious ceremony from the eleventh century, the ceremony seemed like an imitation of my dance, just as I may have drawn from an eleventh century ritual. I was very impressed by the age of the ritual. Butoh is something new, but there are many comparable forms throughout history. Butoh is a form that almost precedes dance, just as a child moves and plays before he dances.
Imagine a snake emerging and appearing before a Japanese farmer, then sliding away. The step with which the farmer may have crushed the snake, may have been the beginning of a Butoh step.”
-Akaji Maro, from Butoh. Dance of the Dark Soul, 1987.
“At this point, if Butoh were to be defined as a very specific Japanese form or practice made only for Japanese bodies to express their souls, Butoh could be an inaccessible idea. Now, though, when many dancers and non-dancers all over the world try to find their own “Butoh”, the main concern about whether to be or not to be Butoh, seems to me unnecessary. Otherwise only a Japanese inheritor of the original Butoh could be the one to define it and to grant BUTOH labels. But fortunately it is not like that. The opening came at the end of the 80’s from Kazuo and Yoshito Ohno when they offered the term “Butoh” to the world as a universal symbol of the beauty of the inner-self: THE FLOWER. Through this many of us could assume the subtle inspiration to develop our own path, and to create conditions to let our spiritual selves dance without attachments to models, patterns, stereotypes or particular methods. We now have the chance to explore our darkness, ugliness, and craziness as well as their dualities of the light, the beauty and the joyful sides, all through a high level of consciousness.”
Diego Pinon, Butoh dancer, choreographer, and teacher.