Butoh Collaborations

I first saw a Butoh Performance in 1992: Sankai Juku's 'Unetsu' at Sadlers Wells in London. Curiously, at the time, the word butoh did not catch me, but I remember being inspired by the integration of the body into a visual field.

In the same year, quite by chance, I met a dancer who was teaching a bit of Butoh and also organising some workshops with Japanese teachers. I attended some of these, although they were few and far between. In the intervening time, I was very much alone in my investigation of movement and the body.

So most of my understanding of Butoh in my very formative years, came through my own deep movement investigations. I spent many years just improvising and creating work in my flat or cheap London studios. At the time, I really wanted to have more contact with a teacher, but in retrospect I really value this time as it meant that my work developed without the slavish copying of any 'master'.

In fact, I have always refused a 'master', although I respect many of my teachers.

Fortunately my long-term collaborator Nick Parkin was a great encouragement and support, and he himself had studied Butoh quite thoroughly, so we made our journey together.

At the time, from 1992 until recently, youtube and even the easy access to the internet, did not exist and I had never seen footage of Tatsumi Hijikata's work or even that of Kazuo Ohno. Books were rare and photographs offered a somewhat exotic image of Butoh for the european consumer. I got my first home computer in 2002 and it is now amazing how much material there now is on the internet!

 In 1994 I was invited as a choreographer and performer to Ex-it, a meeting for European practitioners of Butoh at Schloss Brollin in East Germany, organised by Yumiko Yoshioka. This was a hugely important time for me as I finally got to meet other Europeans engaging with Butoh or Body Weather. I found most of the work very derivative, but was encouraged by the interest in my work from Tadashi Endo and other producers from Germany. I also found an affinity with the spirits of Stefan Marbe (Germany) and Kitt Johnson (Denmark).

I finally got to Japan in 1999 through a Lisa Ullman Scholarship and an Arts Council travel grant. By this time I had trained quite extensively with many diverse Butoh teachers, so the visit to Japan was more about understanding Japan and the history and context of Butoh.

My time in Japan was unforgettable and I studied with the Ohno's, Kim Itoh and other teachers. And finally, through Akiko Motofuji, the widow of Hijikata, I saw film footage of his works. This was quite a revelation and I appreciated how raw, experimental and influential his work had been and continues to be. It was only after Motofuji died recently that the films eventually leaked out into DVD publications and onto the internet.

My first Butoh collaborations happened from 2002 as duets, including many improvisations with Atsushi Takenouchi in various venues in London.

I was funded by Arts Council of England to pursue a research period on a duet with Ko Murobushi. We had a mutual influence on each other from that period and he took much inspiration from my preoocupation with the 'upside down' body, a theme I established as early as 2000 (see Human Zoo). This is now a very continual motif in his work.

I have now of course seen many performances and the ones which are really memorable to me are -

Katharina Vogel 'Chief Joseph' at The Place Theatre 1995?

Kim Itoh and the Glorious Future ' Dead or Alive, Body on the Borderline, The Place Theatre for Re-Orient' 1996?

Min Tanaka company week at the Place Theatre 1994 and also solos in his own studio Plan B in Tokyo 1999.

Oguri improvising at Dance City Newcastle 2008?

Eiko and Koma duet at Queen Elizabeth Hall in 1990s?

Ko Murobushi Edge 01 at The Place Theatre 2006?

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