Review by Florian Schurz

By Florian Schurz /
My name is Florian Schurz. I’m currently studying timebased art in Halle, Saale. In my personal work, Film and Photography are my preferred mediums.
Even though I’m not a professional dancer, I have a deep interest in improvisational dance and research in the physical body. In the last two years I attended some Butoh workshops that encouraged my curiosity and reading about the Butoh Festival Berlin felt like a call to learn more about the background of Butoh.
I arrived with my huge backpack at Hermannplatz in the morning. Walking through the branched backyards of Berlin, it felt like a little “Schnitzeljagd” and I was verry happy when I finally found the cozy Tatwerk studio, where the Festival was held.
Magarita, the organizer of the Festival gave me warm welcome and introduced me to the place.
When I sat down and looked at the audience around, with slight amusement, I recognized that nearly everybody, including myself, who came to learn more about the “Dance of Darkness” was dressed completely in black.
Prof. Stephen Barber, writer and author of the book “Hijikata: Revolt of the body”, opened up the discourse with the history panel and held an interesting lecture about the roots and the development of the Butoh dance. Prof. Barber had spent a certain amount of time in Tokyo, speaking with Butoh dancers from the first and the following generations. With a film and a photo footage from the early days, he provided a vivid testimonial about the cultural and political environment in Japan after the second World War. This gave an impression of the social reality which gave the breeding grounds for a new cultural development including Hijikata’s research in Butoh, who formerly invented this dance as a new form of expression and protest against traditional forms of japenese (and western) dance.
The rest of the first two days of the Festival was marked by filmscreenings, performances and artist talks with the Europe based Butoh dancers Masaki Iwana, Minako Seki, Yuko Kaseki, Motimaru and expert Elena Polzer.
Talking about transforming the dark into the light, Motoya and Tiziana (Motimaru) were speaking about their approach trying to shift the focus in the dance to a more positive and healing perception, not getting stucked in the obscure and perversive that especially Hijikata was dealing with in his dance.
In almost all of the discourses, the question of how Butoh should be defined was very actual. Especially in the western world, where the cultural background compared to the one from which the “original Butoh” emerged is completely different. This allows Butoh to develop further into different branches but also makes it more unclear, unless it turns to a certain physical technique. In this context Minako, Yuko and Masaki spoke about their experiences as dance-expatriates in Europe.
All in all it was a very intense and inspiring weekend. Hopefully it won’t take too long until the next occasion to meet up for a sequel of the Festival.

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