butoh, presence and space.

The other day I saw a fantastically wonderful dance performance by a company called Butoh-A-Go-Go. They’re a two man troupe that performs a style of Butoh. Butoh is a minimalist form of dance that emphasizes embodiment of emotions as opposed to forms and techniques. It really is a metaphor for many things about love, which is the reason I’m writing about it. Here are some excerpts from a performance, so you can get an idea of it. Obviously, seeing it live is far more interesting.


The interesting thing to me about Butoh – and why I love it so much – is how, to me, it seeks to express alternate modes of perceptions and consciousness. It isn’t about making a dance with elegant moves such that people will think it beautiful. It is about embodying the entire human experience, often including displays of extreme suffering and facial contortion, and enabling people to see the beauty in that. It emphasizes the dancer’s presence as opposed to strict forms of motion. In Butoh, the presence of the dancer is key. When I see more “conventional” dance I’m always noticing how the dancer’s body is doing amazing things, but the dancer isn’t totally inhabiting their body. I rarely see this phenomena in Butoh.

In my eyes, this goes very parallel with meditation and being simply in the present moment. When there isn’t any desire to be anything other than who we are – even if it is in a moment of extensive suffering – there is often rapturous beauty. It is if we are seeing a great creation unfold in our own lives. With this beauty can come a great sense of community with the human race, and a deep seated compassion that includes self and others, like the bond of seeing a great performance together. Too often, we want to escape from suffering, or have a fixed idea of how life “should” be. While suffering is never fun, it is there (like everything else) for a reason, and it’s usually only when we surrender to the full experience we’re having that we can see the bare truth of what’s going on. This will lead to new senses of freedom from the ability to make conscious, aware choices.

When I am in suffering, and I have glimpses of the beauty of the experience, I often break out into deep laughter or unrestrained tears, both symptoms of seeing a more expansive perspective of the situation. A similar type of experience has happened to me (and countless others) in visiting poverty stricken areas of the third world. There is an awakening beauty about directly seeing others suffering even those near death. I call it awakening because it can both awaken a realization of how much we all suffer, as well as deep desires for the soul to come out and touch the world with love.

Of course, Butoh isn’t all about suffering. I also love the slow, present movements throughout it that are like a walking meditation, as well as any moments of seemingly nothing happening. There’s a space around all the movement and emotions in the dance that enables me, as an audience member, to incorporate and digest all I’ve seen. Space and slowness is something highly underrated in our society. It is like the ‘yin’ energy that’s necessary to profound the foundation for further ‘yang’ activities, to revisit this theme from a past entry. It is about being in touch with the full potential of the moment, so that every choice we make is based on conscious choice instead of a frenetic dance with no consistent direction. It is about creating a space for love and acceptance, instead of forcing one’s self to love by “dealing with it”. To me, this seems infinitely more effective. From an inner world of space and slowness, moving into action and productivity is surprisingly easy. (Butoh has bursts of frenetic action as counterpoint, too, I might add!)

The arts are a wonderful place to give and get senses of heightened awareness. My appreciation goes across almost all art forms, including music, dance, acting, painting and others not commonly thought of as ‘art’.

As comments I’d like to invite everyone to share of experiences and arts that helped bring this sense of beauty at simply being human, warts and all.

July 19th, 2006|allowing, dance, love|0 Comments

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