" The Body as Dance "
An Introduction to The Study of Butoh-ology (2)
("Dance Seminer a nishiazabu" chapter 3 English Version)

written by keisuke Sakurai
translated by Asako maruno

3. Ankoku-butoh Chose an Animism "Form"

First, we have Tatsumi Hijikata's "Ankoubutoh". Please note that I want to think the dance of Tatsumi Hijikata himself and the "Ankoku-butoh style" created by Tatsumi Hijikata separately for the time being. Let us begin with "Ankoku-butoh style". Speaking of "to become", what is it that they have become? There are fox, cat, lion or other beasts (including Faunus that is part man and part goat, collected from Nijinsky's photographs), crow, chicken, a cripple(=Marked) like Itako or Goze , paralytic old man, deformed dwarf or hunchback, etc. We should heed the point that these are not at the level of just a symbolic "to express something (pretend)". For example, to be malformed body, or make the most use of the facial muscles to become the real blind like Goze. For instance, at the level of pantomime, you are blind if you close your eyes. But it is not at such a level. It is to move the flesh to the at most and transform. You can see great effort put into it. As you can see particulary in Yoko Ashikawa the greatest personifier of Hijikata's "Ankoku-butoh style", the intensity of extremely radical distortion of her body embodies "to become". For instance, the way of reduction as in minimalist or Judsonites, the way of narrowing down to daily motions, seems to be nothing but a sign. By comparison, the "Ankoku-butoh style" is very thorough. However, what is it they want "to become"? It is probably an "object", or in other words "nature". Conflict between your own "identity" and the rest of the "world" is a modern concept. It seems that he is trying to adapt to the environment by becoming the shape in order to reconcile the conflict. It is quite deceiving though. Then speaking of "to become", it is embodied in a very radical way; bend, distort, and deformalize to the extreme. When I think about it, I feel that emergence by way of denial and elimination can be applied to the "onngata" in Kabuki. In Kabuki a male actor must impersonate a female. Therefore, like the present Tamasaburo Bando , who is physically feminine to begin with, can perform the role quite naturally. In comparison the celebrated onnagata of earilier times are clearly masculine in appearance and physially. No wonder it was so crude. Nevertheless, in order to make onnagata possible and to make female emerge, it is necessary to bend the body to an extreme. Of course, even Tamasaburo, from early childhood, had to acquire the female form and make it part of himself. Accordingly, it is "foot biding of the whole body". Should we see this "to become" as "to be possessed" in the meaning of having a female dwell in the body? It is rather an "animism" than "shamanism". In the ancient times, everything was considered part of nature, including human beings. So, to look at ancient times from animism, human beings, beasts, stones, etc., are all considered equal. But to realize this in the present, modern day, Hijikata thinks that the only way this can be achieved is to present the "body became" in an unreasonably rude way and "breathe life" into it or let all creation dwell in it. Hijikata is rather "animist" than "shamanist"; since he detests "communicability with spirit" of shamanism, which does not have something specific such as making body a thing. So, he tries to reconcile the world and nature by remolding his body in a distorted way and making it an "object". In his case, it seems that onnagata of Kabuki happens to be one hint. For shaman "to become" is only for a moment but for example to make "to become" a constant is to become a fox and not "to be possessed" by a fox. Yet one's consciousness in there. A person like Hijikata, who has especially strong, self-consciousness, who in other words is non-hypnotic may be good at choreographing other people, but finds it very difficult for he himself to dance. We must now look at this point where it is slightly different when Hijikata himself dances.

4. Hijikata Struggles Between Life and Death

I feel that Hijikata is moving uncertainly compared to his sharp choreography for others. For someone who possesses extraordinary consciousness, Hijikata's dance is quite uncertain contrary to his dancers' "to completely become" along his strict rigorous choreography. Somehow It does not seem that he gets into the "form" sharply. What is the "tremor" or the "convulsive shaking " motion that does not give the contour to be fixed in our vision? Regarding "to become", is it a disabled person lieing down on the ground from paralysis or senility? May be is it to rot away alive and become part of earth like decaying or decomposing matter? One can imagine various things from it. But in his case particualarly, it seems that there is a consciousness that refuses "form" and intention to get into "form". These two confront one another internally and externally, resulting in the shaking. So, his dance exists, unlike ballet which makes the body a symbol and make it appear as image. Furthermore his dance exists, unlike other dancers, who become "object" or to put into Sartre's words "being by itself" (etlre en soi meme ), it probably refers to Hijikata's famous words, "Butoh is the dead body standing straight up at the risk of life". In short, it is the interstice of life and death. In Hijikata's case, being the choreographer and the dancer, there is a struggle for supremacy, or the split between the identity in the body and the objectivity in the body. Psychoanalytically, "to become" in the modern identity is "schizophrenia". That is why ther is an example of the symptom of "identicalness". In the old days there was the "to be possessed" by a wolf as being the same as becoming a wolf. Psychoanalysis has defined this to be "identicalness". Today, due to Deleuze/Gatali , it is redefined more positively as not in illness but as "generating"or "adjustmennt ". There is no such bright outlook like in a fantasy. To me, Hijikata's dance is pathetic and I feel it is a Freudian tragedy of modern identity. (For instance, referring to a physically handicapped person "a body without organs"; if the paralysis was an acquired disability and not congenital, he will not be able to grab an object even though he reaches out for it. Thereby, a conflict arises between his body and the mind.) Now, a little apart from "how it looks", what was Hijikata thinking while he was dancing on the stage? He suddenly quit dancing and pushed forward to further establish the Ankoku-butoh style. He declared to dance again but at last he dies. So there was something he was considering at the point in time he quit. Was he not thinking that he shoud become a more complete "object"? But this he could not do since he was the creator, so he let others do the dancing.

5. Hijikata's Anguish as a Dancer

Here, I want to ponder of the "form of Ankoku-butoh" again in relation to why Hijikata willingly quit dancing. In the "Ankoku-butoh style" nothing is vague, no ifs and buts, nothing is ambiguous. We are able to clearly see each movement and every detail. If this is the "body became", the "body to become object", then they are only to be seen. They are nothing like signifiant with signifie or like a metaphor that can be interpreted. It is an absolute "Augenschin " (Sight ). Perhaps, nature is something like that to human beings. Certainly, you can say that Ankoku-butoh is made of symbols of folk customs provided. But it is considered more of "design" and not "icon". Therefore again, it is only to be seen. Design is design only to be seen. But a symbol stands for something. Something symbolic is, "as a result the reality of materialistic objective is dessolved and the objective will be considered a mere reflection of something origin which does not exist in a realistic world (Paul de Man "The Rhetoric of Tempotality " 1983 )". In short , by thinking that there is something more than seen in the eyes, becomes a symbol by pursuing the origin. For instance, when you consider Hijikata's way of "to become" as a means of reviving the lost or forgotten pantheistic world, or as reconsiliation with nature or world moreover in an extremely monadological way, a symbolic system is far more effective. However, Hijikata does quite the opposite. In short, Hijikata's devotion, adherence to materiality, the "object" comes from the recognition of reconciliation with nature at a symbolic level ("correspondence" in symbolism) which is simply a pretense of reconciliation by internalization. Even in "animism", he does not lay emphasis on the fact that soul exist in every living thing, existence of soul is not important. He thought that he was able to link with object by becoming the object. Thus, his dance is the materialism. To him becoming the "object" is everything. However, this is realized only from the point of "to be seen". Becoming "object" is purely to objectify. "Object" must be pure matter that does not stare back. Therefore, only the audience is able to recognize it as "object". If the audience thought that the dancer who has become "object" is "thinking about something" from that moment the dancer is no longer the pure "object". That is why, in the field of performing arts, It is often said that the dancer himself must dance insentiently. In fact, this could mean that the dancer does not realize that he has become "object". This in itself could have been the anguish or problem for Hijikata as a dancer. His strong belief that dancers must persistently achieve "object" made the dance as something peculiar called Ankoku-butoh.

7. Why People are Impressed with Kazuo Ohno

Hijikata quits dancing along with the establishment of Ankoku-butoh around the mid 1970s. About the same time in 1977, Kazuo Ohno made a comeback with the piece called "La Argentina". Exactly the opposite image appeared to wipe out the image of Ankoku-butoh that people had. It was far from " Hijikata's style". There is no style. It is improvisation. What Kazuo Ohno presented was to stand, not to crouch or get down and shrink oneself as Hijikata pursued. His direction was a cosmical and universal rather than Japanese. It is said that he also by "to become", "dead people", his mother and a Spanish female dancer whom he saw long time ago. His drowned female pupil, dead Tatsumi Hijikata, also the whole creation, cosmos, nature, such as flowers, birds, wind, moon, etc., he pursues and unifies with everything. Tatsumi Hijikata and Kazuo Ohno each realized this from an entirly opposite stand point. Kazuo Ohno's dance is "improvisation". The idea is that a shape/form will born naturally as a result of the act of dancing intiently. Simply from the aspect of ethnology or the science of religion, it feels as if you comprehend, but from our present position it is a very delicate issue. Thereupon, we have to find out how shapes/forms are embodied. At any rate, we just have to see it. Let us pose a question from the point of ultra materialist. Speaking of "to become", does Kazuo Ohno look like a woman? Let us look at it in phases, in the first phase, when he suddently appered in the distance, he seems to look like a "beauty" dressed in a long antique dress wearing a big hat. In the second phase, when seen close up he is a wrinkled old man. Even at a distance, once he starts moving, the motion is shaky and wobbly, so, recognizing him as an old man. Up to this point, what we see is ultimatly "an old man in woman's disguise". If the audience thinks what he is seen is beautiful or is impressed after watching at length, then how is Kazuo Ohno seen at the moment? Please choose from the following. (A) you, audience unaware, his turning into a youthful beautiful female dancer (B) still in female disguise, tired and wrinkled, yet beautiful as is (C) become totally disheartened In the case of (A), if even for a moment he is seen as a beautiful woman, how it is realized has to be looked at in retrospect. Regardin "form", Kazuo Ohno does not put much effort in the technique of making his body into woman. In other words, it is not the kind of approach "to become" that is to close in upon woman by exerting one's technical skill as in Ankoku-butoh oronnagata of Kabuki. But he skillfully graspthe essence of the prototype of a woman; beauty, sweetness, which works upon our imagination, making us feel in awe. For instance, , as far as I know, Utaemon Nakamura of Kabuki comes to mind. He also, no offense, is quite old and like as well, like all other onnagata of the past, beauty was not obvious like in Tamasaburo. Utaemon was wobbly but when he danced sweetness of woman emerged. I think there exists this "way to become" process of "to become". But It is strictly an "image" and not "materiality". By grasping the roots, it is occasiontally possible to make the audience's imagination seewoman. But it is different from the materiality of "to become" as we see in Ankoku-butoh. Now (B), how are we understnad the beauty wrinkled, tired old man disguised as a woman? One way is to romanticize the "aesthetics of unsightlyness". Or like in the Japanese "wabi-sabi ", look at "aging" as one of a supreme form. By looking at it aestheticlly makes it so, may be by shelving it as a matter of taste, we are affirming it. By the way, my taste is not so. Then why is there a moment we see it like that? There is a "disabled" old man presenting the "disabled" body as is. First of all, I feel that in itself is inspiring. The important thing is not "he can still move well" but the fact "he can no longer move so well", or "he is decrepit". That is "already have become". I feel it may lead to the Japanese aesthetic issue which we just denied, but, at least, it is different from the impression that the seasoned beauty, and or healthy, venerable, inner beauty are hidden. It is not the simple beauty of the "okina" (old man) in Noh. When it comes to seasoned beauty etc., it becomes the symbol that is able to internalize. It is probably not so for Kazuo Ohno. Rather, I think that the "decrepit" body is guaranteed the objectivity and materiality by the negativity of its disability. This becomes an obstruction to the subject's consciousness, to move the body or the audience's consciousness to reduce it to an "image".

7. The Body as Receptacle of Image

There is the body that "has become old person". In other words, not the body that tries to become a female and not the "image" that the body that tries to become a female, but it is certainty that there is the "body" that has already become old. I believe that this is probably the congenital talent, old person's talent and disposition of "Kazuo Ohno" which Tatsumi Hijikata envied very much and sought a body that could become object by just standing there. And, should this be the case, I feel truly that Kazuo Ohno is somehting of a miracle. Further, when we speak of Utaemon, when we compare him with much less experienced young onnagata , we can see that the moment the latter appears there is a woman. She is pretty and slender. Moreover, when he starts to dance, the more he moves, the materiality of a female of the person who has "to become" a female gets weak. The more he moves, the more he dances beautifully and smoothly, this becomes a symbol. However, should this be a person who is not skilled in dancing, it does not mean that a perfect image of a female does not appeared. The fact that a person "moves well" results in a feeling of obstruction in the audience and think that "he tries to impersonate a woman, he is trying to make me believe he is a female". And we stand on guard thinking we are not going to be fooled. Thus, we only can see the line traced woman as symbol only on a photogenic level. Rather than and even flat materialistic nature of the body, like Utaemon, the reality and or materiality of the body which "has become" an old person exist as precondition. And if a female which has become "image" placed over it, this becomes an impact. Should the "body that has become an old person" and a "female as an image" become a double structure, let us consider Noh as an example. The Noh is also and art of "to become". There are old man and heavenly maiden in "Hagoromo" (a veil of feathers) in Noh, other than "atojite" (super natural being transformed from "maejite" a main character, a normal human being in the first act) of fukushiki Noh (a two act form where maejite becomes atojite). Thinking about the Noh structure and how the transformation is possible, a male Noh actor wearing a female mask with his chin sticking out, bundled up in Noh costume will absolutely never look like a woman to us, in particular who are affeted by realism. And differing from Kabuki, there is no movement of a female-like portayal. Rather than that there is almost no movement! In reality, in our eyes this no movement ensures "materialistic nature" of the body. This body that has "to become" without movement- what this has become is a this stage "receptacle". In Japanese, the body is "karada" (empty pack), or "utsubo" (hollow), or "utsusemi "(the carded skin of a cicada). That is an completely the nature of "receptacle", in other words and is not it materiality? In Noh play, the body is presentedted as "receptacle". After its existence and materiality are fixed firmly in our eyes, the sleeves are slowly spread or wound up. One movement is made. When the one movement is made in this solidified body and the space supported by the body, would not there arise the effect of "the movement of the air seen visually"? Therein, something can be seen, right? This "the way it appears" is not that the Noh player himself is seen as a heavenly maiden, but you recognize the heavenly maiden by the moving of surrounding air, in other words, metaphonically, by beeing able to see the "hagoromo" (veil). Because the body is empty, by being negative, the structure is there and enabling the spirit to enter. We may see a "soul shaking" (swing the soul by shaking the body up and down) in Japanese Shintoism in the motion of "spreading the sleeves", but it does not have to be spiritual. Even pantomime may be enough for this. Pantomime is not like materilistic body "to become" something either. Having materiality of your body as footing, by hitting or touching something it makes something come up around you or in a space. Can we consider pantomime as a system to make something appear by turning over the situation that your body is a material and there is nothing around you. Here, let us think about the quality of Saburo Teshigawara's dance. He started from pantomime. He creates a whole new expression at the level of the body of Noh as I have just said, that is far from the realism of usual pantomime. Are not these not for instance, "dance physics" or "to dance the air" that he is saying refer to what I have said? Presupposing that your body with nothing around it, does it not mean that as a result of vibration of air by body motion, the air can be envisioned.

8. Do Not Talk About Kazuo Ohno in the Aspect of New Age

Now, if we think of Kazuo Ohno as an issue from the stand point of an audience, I think it is rude to evaluate him as a short-circuit rhetoric or somewhat cosmological or New Age-like . It may even be precarious. As has been noted, an action to symbolize is "the defensive means against the absolute manifestation of body and its elimination".(Rainer Nagere "Puppet Play and Trauerspiel " 1991) Certainly, according to what Kazuo Ohno says, he has a strong desire to be linked together with universality or the cosmos. To him "dancing" is, sooner or later, to expose and to dedicate the body intently. I believe he is wishing that the desire can be realized by serving and exposing. Rather than his belief in the matter of "become" or not, well, I guess he believes that but, he may be just dancing with his whole heart "wishing that he can become". What I absolutely can say is that even though he has this desire, he is not dancing in metaphor that is an expression to internalize materiality and externality of the body. I do not think that first of all Kazuo Ohno even thinks about that. Then what in the world is he thinking? Perhaps, as I have mentioned before, may be he is no different from a madman having hallucinations. Is he fighting windmills? Thus there are many "normal people" who are not impressed with his dance at all, asking "what is so good about it?". That is an honest feeling. I can understand this if I think that he is a madman, a goner out of his mind. However, for the madman, the hallucinations are real, since he sees them. Another thing is that even if the person is crazy, the person's existence is real. When the audience think the person is a normal dancer and wonder what the dancer is doing, they will unintentionally look at whatever the dancer is looking up at and trying to reach. Then the matter of "there is something" is the origin of pantomime. Just like Utaemon's way of appearing as a woman, it does not necessarily have to be realistic. Moreover, in this case it is not necessary for one to see anything. In short, it may be true only if you think the person is a madman; you may not have to think anything more than "oh, he is seeing something". We are just watching the person who is seeing something. I think this is okay. Because what is important in the flow of Ankoku- butoh is not "image" that appears in visual forms, but the "presence" of body. Still, it is not quite understandable. What is it that makes "this wonderful art!". This one big issue still remains. That is, in what way does Kazuo Ohno grasp the "modern". In other words, what is it the makes Kazuo Ohno free, aloof as if conflicts such as spirit and flesh, sensitivity and logic, oneself and others, one's ego and the world, subject and object etc. Well, we will think about this some other time, anyhow, it is for sure that there is a "pantheistic" world view in Kazuo Ohno. A post modern side, which was getting attention at that time can be seen. Like this Butoh view, it can be promineantly seen in the works of the so called "the second generation Butoh" such as the Sankaijuku (since 1980 )and Byakkosha (since 1980 ), that received much attention in the 1980s. They, with the mastered body of Ankoku-butoh, Japanese moreover rustic, by transforming in some form, shift the original, the Japanese body to an Asian body. They thought it was possible to replace the Japanese body with the Asian body. The fact is you cannot avoid the gap between the young generation and old folk customs of north eastern of Japan. Young people cannot identify with them. Therefore, when they interpret mastery they look in the direction of Asia. In the past, I guess there were such bodies everywhere but, not today, so they tried to gain ground by reconsidering the time issue spatially. Butoh will continue to change in quality in this manner. go to next page
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