Students will gain an understanding of the complexity of meaning in Butoh body movements by studying Butoh film and practicing Butoh in order to incorporate two movement pieces to their final monologue.
Have music on when students enter the classroom. Pick several songs in different styles with completely different feels. When class starts, have students get up and start moving to the music however they want. (Side coaching: Think about what you’re communicating with the way you’re moving your body. What would other people be thinking about after watching that movement.)
Instruction: (30 minutes)
Before First Video:
Butoh loosely translated means stomp dance, or earth dance.
The other issue this raises is that the audience cannot usually discern what this internal image is – nor should it. Good Butoh is like a Rorschach test. The audience reads their own story in the actions
Watch Sankai Juku Clip
Butoh is strange, dark dance form created by Hijikata Tatsumi in Japan during the years following World War II. Butoh is defined by its very evasion of definition. “Hijikata’s dance was literally called Ankoku Butoh,” he said, “meaning black or dark dance. The darkness referred to elements — the territory of taboo, the forbidden zones — on which light had never been cast… It is both theater and dance, yet it has no choreographical conventions. It is a subversive force, through which conventions are overturned. As such, it must exist somewhere on the social periphery… It is a force of liberation, especially within the conformist Japanese social structure…”
In Butoh there is a strong element of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Atomic bomb devastated Japan, but the consciousness of humanity was held hostage. The impossible was now possible; complete and utter annihilation. It is the feeling of a silent scream, which sometimes underscores Butoh.
One is the concept of the empty body. This refers to an opening up of space in the body to allow yourself room to be moved. To move without conscious intention or desire for self-expression.
Hijikata believed that by distorting the body, and by moving slowly on bent legs he could get away from the traditional idea of the beautiful body, and return to a more organic natural beauty. The beauty of an old woman bent against a sharp wind, as she struggles home with a basket of rice on her back. Or the beauty of a lone child splashing about in a mud puddle – this was the natural movement Hijikata wanted to explore. Hijikata grew up in the harsh climate of Northern Japan in an area known as Tohoku. The grown-ups he watched worked long hours in the rice fields, and as a result, their bodies were often bent and twisted from the ravages of the physical labor. These were the bodies that resonated with Hijikata. Not the “perfect” upright bodies of western dance, or the consciously controlled movements of Noh and Kabuki. He sought a truthful, ritualistic and primal earthdance.
Watch 4 men Clip One that allowed the performer to make discoveries as she/he created/was created by the dance.
Discussion: (5 minutes)
What is your first reaction to Butoh? What do the movements look like/mean to you? What are the similarities and differences of Butoh from Noh, Kabuki, and Bunraku?
Activity: (10 minutes)
Split class up into groups of 3. Each of them gets one of the following social issues:
Global Warming Drug Abuse Poverty Women’s Rights Environmental Pollution Eating Disorders Unemployment/Homelessness
Students need to come up with a 20-30 second dance to present to the class
Performance: (15 minutes)
Discussion: (15 minutes)
Ask students different ways they might incorporate Butoh into their monologues. Have students turn to the person next to them and brainstorm ways they can incorporate movement into their particular monologue. If students seem to be struggling, point out specific moments from the social issue performances that are good examples of how to incorporate movement.
If students feel they have a good grasp on what they would like to do to incorporate Butoh, the rest of class can be given for rehearsal time.
Added to your final performance from today:
– Performance Element: You will need to include TWO stylized movements in your performance. These should be well above and beyond anything we might possibly see in a realism performance. Go big or go home.