Yes, watching Butoh for the first time is maddeningly weird, like so much in Japanese culture, but if you are the curious type it is also wonderful for reasons that are hard to identify. As an artform that is just about fifty years old, it has dozens of practitioners, and there are a few things that are common to it.
What is Butoh?
I first encountered Butoh when I was in Japan and took in a performance by Sankai Juku. It was unlike any other dance – or theatre – on earth. It has no physical technique or common terminology for the movements themselves. I think it is the unique expression of the dancer unencumbered by language and tradition and constraint. That’s why I think there is an element of theatre to it. For some it appears that the rigorous training and mental preparation needed to acheive the state of Butoh dance makes it seem as if it is a religion. The drummers of Kodo approach their music making in a similar way. However, it is not a religion, or theatre, it is a dance form, a form of performance involving movement that somehow comes to the surface of the dancer, from some special reserve of feeling and energy that is buried incredibly deep within them.
Butoh is not as much about technique as it is about feeling. As someone watching a performance, it is better to feel what is being expressed than to focus on the movement combinations as a trained dancer would.
ALSO: Nippertown.com is giving away a pair of FREE TIX to Friday night’s premiere performance at EMPAC at RPI in Troy. Go here to enter…