Review by Anita Callaghan

By Anita Callaghan


I recently had the great pleasure of visiting the Butoh Festival Berlin which was organized thanks to Margerita (Butoh Channel Berlin) and Tatwerk.

There was a very interesting mix of discussion, film, interviews, workshops and of course wonderful Butoh performances. The first day of the festival started with a symposium, interviews and discussions with very experienced Butoh dancers and teachers, and theoretical experts, if you can say that there is such a thing as a Butoh expert. Prof. Stephen Barber gave us lots of information about Hijikata, Kazuo Ohno and the founding history of Butoh and its development in Japan from the 50’s until now, and also how it made its way to Europe. It was exciting to hear from someone who spent much time in Japan researching and gathering information about Butoh in its early years. Another researcher named Elena Polzer also shared her experiences as a European in Japan, talks that she had had with various dancers/teachers. Talking differences in culture and how we view Butoh, the most dominant discussion seemed to be what is Butoh or can I define it?

This was often the question asked to the experienced performer/teacher. Among those was the very famous Masaki Iwana who met many questions with humour, modesty and sarcasm, resisting questions about him being an expert or a founder of Butoh.
The wonderful Yuko Kaseki talked about her journey as a young dancer coming from Japan to Berlin and how Butoh has developed for her in the last 25 years in Europe. Talking about the difficulties within Japan as a dancer, and as a Butoh dancer, as a woman in Japan and how she found her dance in the course of her journey.
Minako Seki shared her approach and what it means to her to live Butoh, taking in all aspects, healthy nutrition in daily life, meditation and Butoh dance, the need to care for the body, mind and soul, three aspects we cannot separate, where one cannot survive without the other. Minako calls her approach the Seki Method.
Motimuru gave us some insight to working with Kazuo Ohno’s son Yoshito Ohno, his methods and ideas, how he differed to his father and how it was to be a Butoh dancer in Japan, its advantages and disadvantages. Telling touching stories about Kazuo Ohno and his last years, and how they came to Berlin in 2010.

After many inspiring stories, we then had a round table and film screenings. The festival went on for 6 days with workshops, films and performances. For those who didn’t make it, it is definitely worth while visiting the next one. The most important thing I took out of the symposium especially, and as a passionate dancer was that I felt that in order to understand what Butoh is, you need to experience it for yourself and only then can someone realize that Butoh cannot be defined or put in a box. Rather I feel defining Butoh can only kill its essence. Many people need definitions to understand things, but in the case of Butoh I feel you must delve into your mind, body and soul to understand exactly why it doesn’t need to be defined , and there you find the beauty of Butoh.

Thank you Margerita and Tatwerk for organizing this festival.

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