To be an audience, there has to be at least one person watching. The relationship to the audience can range from completely disconnected (very internally focused) to completely engaged by them (as with clown). If disconnected, then presence is even more vital.
It is not essential to satisfy the audience, but it is to leave a powerful impression. It is also not essential to lay out specific meaning or story for the audience. The most important part is to evoke feeling, not an intellectual response. Kazuo Ohno explains: “The audience can be moved without having to comprehend all that goes into making your performance. Isn’t that the very reason we dance – to engage the audience on a visceral level? That is why I’m at a terrible loss to hear people talk of understanding my performance. Of course, you can use your brains to think, but when it comes to dancing, just forget all that.”¹
So when watching a butoh performance: (1) quiet the mind; (2) be open; (3) feel.
Exercise: Waking the Ash Man
This is an exercise that deeply ties the performer to the audience. Beforehand, the audience is to make noise and/or movement of any kind. The audience is a direct influence on the dancer who wakes up from ash body (resonates) when there is audience participation.