Feeling (Updated: 01/09/18)

In order to use our body as an instrument for life resonance, we need to be able to feel in the first place. It is recommended to inquire about these senses while the participant is already in movement or walking in space.

Felt Sense

Felt sense is a term coined by Peter Levine, and this list is influenced by him as well. He is a pioneer in trauma work. He proposed actually feeling the intricacies of the bodies as the first step toward healing.¹

Pressure – even, uneven, supportive, crushing, cutting off circulation

Air current – gentle, cool, warm, from right, from left, stimulating, overstimulating, misty

Tension – solid, dense, warm, cold, inflamed, protective, constricting, angry, sad

Pain – ache, sharp, twinge, slight, stabbing

Tingle – pricks, vibration, tickling, numb

Itch – mild itch, irritating itch, moving itch, subtle itch, large area itch

Temperature – warm, hot, burning, cool, cold, clammy, chills, frozen, both hot and cold

Size – small, large, medium, both large and small

Shape – flat, circular, triangular, irregular

Weight – light, heavy, both light and heavy

Motion – circular, erratic, straight line

Speed – fast, slow, still

Texture – rough, smooth

Element – fire, air, earth, water, wood, metal

Color – various

Mood – rainy, cloudy, sunny, stormy, violent (e.g. earthquake, tsunami)

Sound – buzzing, harmonious, noisy

Taste – sour, bitter, sweet, astringent, salty, oily, pungent

Smell – pungent, sweet, like rain, like trees

Presence – empty, here, distracted

Qualia – various

Exercise 1: Body Scan Roll Down

While on your back or standing up, slowly roll your spine up then back down (or vise versa) vertebra by vertebra. Scan slices of your body (like the axial slices of a hospital cat scan machine) and be aware of any sensations. You can also refer to the roll down in the spine section.

Exercise 2: Hand Body Scan

Hover your hands around every surface of your body. Imagine your hands have extra senses to feel wherever it hovers, whether many eyes, ears, nose, or even tongue.

Exercise 3: Part Shift

Have the participant locate a particular feeling in the body and to express the feeling with movement.

Signal the participant to relocate the exact movement expression but to various body parts in varying subtleties.


“There is a kind of synaesthesia which seems to play out in the language of Butoh, whereby the dancer can mix up the senses… to send the normal sensory functions into disarray, allowing the ears to feel, or the eyes to smell…An arm might explore all the crevices and contours of its own skin with all the objective distance of a gloved and estranged limb.” – Rachel Sweeney²


“If you place the beauty of … [the] flower and the emotions which are evoked by it into your dead body, then the flower you create will be true and unique and the audience will be moved.” – Kazuo Ohno³

It is recommended to identify emotions past the basic happy, sad, and angry. There are many more:

Affection, anger, angst, anguish, annoyance, anticipation, anxiety, apathy, arousal, awe, boredom, confidence, contempt, contentment, courage, curiosity, depression, desire, despair, disappointment, disgust, distrust, ecstasy, embarrassment, empathy, envy, euphoria, fear, frustration, gratitude, grief, guilt, happiness, hatred, hope, horror, hostility, humiliation, interest, jealousy, joy, loneliness, love, lust, outrage, panic, passion, pity, pleasure, pride, rage, regret, remorse, resentment, sadness, saudade, schadenfreude, self-confidence, shame, shock, shyness, sorrow, suffering, surprise, trust, wonder, worry.

Important: To not get lost in the outer form (especially facial expressions), once a particular feeling is recognized, swallow the emotion and then resonate with how the body reacts while also being mindful of typical gestures associated with the feeling. This is not repression of emotion, but the opposite. If after this, the facial expression or gesture still comes, resonate with that too.

An extreme re/deterritorializion/reduction of human expression of emotion would be to place the face right on the ground literally or as if it were the case. This is Tatsumi Hijikata’s floor face from his butoh score (butoh-fu) Quiet House.4

Exercise 1: Emotional Jumping Wild (Throwing Emotional Qualias)

This is a jumping wild exercise where somebody calls out one emotion after another and the participant is to shift through them. First, the emotions can be acted out in the face, but and then they can be acted out without the facial expressions or gestures associated with them. After one gets used to shifting, we take the training wheels off by shifting through them ourselves.


Exercise 2: Emotional Metamorphosis

This exercise involves entering very fully into one emotion. Afterword, somebody calls out various qualias (at first we can do more familiar qualias, such animals, then we can experiment with other qualias beyond animals). We keep the same emotion but we shift through various qualias. We express the emotion to the maximim to the best ability and limitation of the qualia. For instance, in Kafka’s Metamorphosis, when the main character turned into a bug, he remembered the human feelings and emotions, but now with a bug body, he could not react as a human. He had to attempt to express these things as a bug, which was not necessarily coming across to the humans in his world.

Exercise 3: Deconstructing Emotional Response

Because there are certain physical associations, gestures, or facial expressions related to a feeling, we want to train ourselves to go beyond this. The physicality of an emotion may seem universal, but there can still be a cultural influence. For instance, if one were to give a teeth-displaying smile to a monkey, this could be taken as a sign of aggression because to them teeth means being ready to bite, hence an act of aggression. We can thus shift the physical response to any emotion. If for instance, we go into the qualia of horror, we can utilize a gesture, physical association, or facial expression not associated with the qualia of horror.

Exercise 4: Emotional Face Chimera

This is a chimera exercise where one part of the face gives one emotion and another part another. For instance, the mouth can exhibit deep disappointment and the eyes, euphoria.

Emotion Fermentation & Distillaton

What is in an emotional expression? The typical facial expression or movement gesture can be seen in everyday life or in movies. Mainstream actors know these gestures and facial expressions. In butoh, however, we may not be too interested in the surface meaning of things or general associations. This is why I like to use the analogy of: (1) Juice; (2) Wine; (3) Brandy.

Let juice be the ordinary emotion expression, e.g. fear. We then take this emotional expression and swallow it so that it can ferment. The question is, what will turn this juice expression to a wine expression? Is there something even more that can show us fear without the literal facial expression? Perhaps this is your secret. Is it new wine or aged wine? Can we take the process further into distillation? Can we make brandy? If so, will the brandy be a new brandy or an aged brandy? Perhaps the aged wine and aged brandy will take years of letting the expression sit. This is your process.


¹ Levine, Peter A. Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma : the Innate Capacity to Transform Overwhelming Experiences. Berkeley, Calif: North Atlantic Books, 1997. Print.
² Barbe, Frances. The Way of Butoh and Contemporary Choreography: Reflective. Writing on Choreographic Research. n.d. Web. 20 April 2010.
³ Ohno, K. (1988), “Notes by Kazuo Ohno”, in Viala, J. and Masson-Sekine, N. (ed. ), Butoh-Shades
of Darkness, Tokyo: Sbufunotomo Co., Ltd. pp. 176-183.
4 Lee, Rhizome, Behind the Mirror: Butoh Manual For Students.