Circle & Figure 8 (Updated: 11/05/18)

Both the circle and the figure eight can be used to open the sensorimotor channel of the body and appears to be a common conditioning tool in butoh workshop.*

Rhizome Lee uses imagery to direct locations of circular movement: (1) door direction (a circle that slides a Japanese door); (2) water direction (a circle of gliding your hand over a body of water); (3) arrow direction (a circle of an arrow shooting out and down, and repeating). So that along with a shape, there is a qualia attached to it. It tends to change the dynamic.¹

If we wish to go beyond just making shapes, we have to research what resonates (or even spicier, what is the shadow) that so happens to create this shape? Once the qualia is found, this is what is making the shape.

Every part of the body can be used to experiment with circles or figure eights. The movement can also be contained in the specific body part, but the entire body can be made to react naturally to movement. For instance, if I draw figure eights from my pelvis and relax my entire body to allow it to react in whichever way it pleases, what other movements come out of the body? Especially do this exercise on often neglected body parts like the face, eyes, or abdomen.

One visualization that may help with the figure 8 involves two spheres together. This is the 3d version of the figure 8. Utilizing the circle or figure 8 is one way in which to cultivate graceful movement when working with chaos. Because both the circle and the figure 8 go in all directions (and so does chaos), we can utilize it at any point to connect one location to another smoothly and effortlessly.

Exercise 1: Alternating Rotation

We pick two body parts that can rotate in the same direction such as: (1) ankles and head; (2) tongue and eyes; (3) wrists and head; (4) left ankle, right ankle; (5) hip and head. We can use the body mirror technique to help execute these movements, so the ankles for instance can act as what the head is mirroring. Once, one gets this, one can experiment with a form of mirroring where one body part is in a different position or in different timing, yet the movement direction is not affected.

Exercise 2: Rotating String Pathway

Imagine that you have a belt around you with a string that has the capability of rotating completely around you and pulling you in whatever direction. Travel in a circle around in the space while keeping the chest facing forward the entire time. At every moment, the string will be pulling from a different part of your waist. When exhibiting any rotational movement, you can imagine this rotating string.

Exercise 3: Roller Coaster

Travel in the space like a roller coaster. Roller coasters have many loops and many breaks from loops, but they make use of rounding. The roller coaster can also happen within the body.

De/Reterritorialized Circle/Figure 8

We can deterritorialize the circle or figure 8 by adding noise or scribble to it much like a butoh string. From the outside perspective, the movement can be so edited/remixed, that a circle or figure 8 is not perceived, but underneath, somewhere, the essence of the circle of figure 8 remains.


¹ Lee, Rhizome. Behind The Mirror: A Butoh Manual For Students. 2010.
* I was exposed to figure 8 conditioning while taking part in workshops/classes by Yumiko Yoshioka, Tadashi Endo, Ken Mai, Holly Chernobyl, and Rhizome Lee.