September 2015 archive

The future of Butoh and our guides towards it

For many of us there for sure popped up a question whether Butoh is already dead or constantly in transformation absorbing many other styles, cultures, rituals; it develops itself and one can only wonder about the diversity of Butoh dances and dancers nowadays.  Left with no  “system” or “structure”  that could help us recognize Butoh as “Butoh”, we have to cope with those rhetorical issues on our own and in open debates. For those thorough researches who draw a perspective from the past to the future,  Butoh comes inseparably from its context (historical, geographical) as well as the intentions of its originators, born to be a revolt, revolution, a new teaching and globally to say, a way of living… What shall we expect of Butoh nowadays and what kind of future awaits it? In the context of modern searches of both Butoh dancers and the audience, it’s more than a delight to meet those dancers and teachers who guide to the future. So is Juju Alishina, who has developed her own teaching in the past 25 years. Having started in Butoh in 1982, Juju Alishina (b. in Japan) belongs to the third generation of Butoh artists, the one which saw the biggest changes: the decline of Butoh communities and Butoh’s globalization.  She assimilated many different styles and approaches to dance and has developed her own unique one, a “fine blend of traditional and avant-garde”. Alishina actively teaches and performs in France, where she lives since 1998, and abroad. Specially to mention, she is one of those rare teachers who gives regular Butoh classes. You can find more information on her website and facebook.

This year the English version of Juju Alishina’s book, Butoh Dance Training, has been released thanks to the efforts of the translator Corinna Torregiani and the publisher team Singing DragonAlishina_Butoh-Dance-WebIn her book Alishina seems to have embraced all the aspects in and around Butoh dance, interwoven with her broad experience and practice. Moreover and what I found the most precious,  Alishina offers a systematized approach for those who want to establish themselves in Butoh dance but without putting into frames or sclerotization to which all the systems tend. Her  teaching  is alive, breathing,  evolving and carrying her students into the future, supporting them on their own path. Once having found her own dance, now as a teacher Alishina sees her role in guidance to creation of an original dance: “a dance which has its own features yet keeps its foundations in Butoh” (Juju Alishina). In the  book one can find guidelines as well as practical instructions along with the basic training exercises,  which diversity and completeness can for sure enrich any training session or system.

Thank you, dear Juju Alishina, for opening another door into Butoh world!

From the permission of the publishing house Singing Dragon I am glad to share with you few extracts from the book  Butoh Dance Training and in this way to give an insight into the teaching of Juju Alishina. For ordering the book please visit the website of Singing Dragon.

==============      ==============

My teaching technique is primarily geared towards European, American and other foreign students. I introduce Japanese traditions and ways of using the body starting from the basics, assuming that there is no mutual understanding without prior knowledge…

In an interview for NewCaledonian national television, I was asked why Butoh had been so well-received in Europe. I replied that it has “something universal that touches the soul deeply and meets the needs of Europeans”. I answered spontaneously since it was a live broadcast but later I kept reflecting on this question.
It is widely believed that Japanese culture can be exported abroad only if it is accompanied by a certain air of exoticism. However, by practicing Butoh in Europe, I realized that it’s main concept could only be welcomed here because of the source of inspiration from Surrealism and Dadaism…

Butoh has been adopted in Europe but some unfortunate misunderstandings still occur. For example, people tend to believe that Butoh is nothing but the expression of one’s emotional side and tend to disregard the technical aspect of the dance…

People attached to Butoh are those who are aware of the “wild beast hiding within them”. However, it is true that it is difficult to tame this “dangerous beast”. Consequently, in some scenes dancers seem to move without any limitations or control, projecting their own emotions and personal disorders. To dominate this wild animal inside oneself and find one’s way in the arcana of Butoh as a performing art, one should not only refer to the “beast” as the basis for expression, but should also learn the technique and the dramatization…

When I created my own company in Tokyo in 1990, hippie culture had nearly disappeared. Society no longer welcomed vagabond, eccentric artists. In the golden age of the “underground” Butoh and life – or fantasy and reality – overlapped. Today the trend is rather to oppose daily life in favour of art, private life to work in all fields. Butoh is now taught in dance schools and cultural centers and is becoming more accessible. This was unthinkable when I was young. In the 70s and 80s , people would say to me: “I’d like to go to Butoh performance, but I don’t dare, it scares me,” or “I know neither where to find Butoh shows nor how to get it,”… Today, some young people do not manage to learn to dance Butoh even after years of training because their environment is completely different from the “underground” that used to be. They can no longer seem to grasp Butoh as an avant-garde dance. Instantly becoming an avenging spirit, a demon, an animal or even smoke in a dance hall or on stage while preserving the same values as a mere mortal, requires much more concentration, mental elasticity and imagination than ordinary life can provide… Nowadays, although Butoh is more widespread, each individual is responsible for developing their own level of ability. It is not uncommon to see students who began learning in my class in Paris (not in Japan) achieve a respectable level after a number of years…

Making a ” New Butoh” implies both facing scenic issues and the question of the system itself. Since Butoh is not governed by any system such as the eimoto and the natori* in traditional Japanese dance (Nihon-Buyoh) and teaching certificates, grades or dans as in judo or kendo do not exist, arguably one becomes a Butoh dancer through “self-assignment”. I sometimes have the impression that, especially in Europe, every single amateur could, one fine day, do a Butoh performance. This freedom and ambiguity in the way Butoh works is positive but also implies some risks…
* These terms refer to the organizational model in traditional Japanese dance.

Here  you can read and download few pages of the book that include content and exercises.