Youth & Age (Updated: 01/07/18)

“When I try to prove my own existence, it is impossible not to follow the thread of my memories until I reach my mother’s womb; for it is there that my life began. So I try to carry in my body all the weight and mystery of life; and I believe dance is born of this experience.” – Tatsumi Hijikata¹

What all do we have to work with other than our memories and timeline? Both Hijikata and Ohno based their works on their memories and especially childhoods. Thus it is highly recommended to enter deeply into one’s own personal life, the further back you go, the better. Your timeline is your story of stories. Dance your stories.


“Again and again we are reborn. It is not enough simply to be born of the mother’s womb. Many births are necessary. Be reborn always and everywhere. Again and again.” – Tatsumi Hijikata

The baby is a major motif throughout all butoh theater, much like the subtle and neutral walk such as Ash Walk. Baby movements unlike more “mature” movements are characterized by butoh time. With this qualia, listen to the subconscious baby body memory.

1. Fetus (Early)

The fetus feels herself surrounded by a sac with fluid. Feel the lack of worries. Vary the location of the fetal position.

2. Fetus (Late)

The fetus feels herself claustrophobic in the amniotic sac upon the entire body. It is no longer comfortable inside and there are desires of wanting to escape the situation.

3. Birth

As if the amniotic walls were not enough, along comes a series of shocks (contractions) and muscles increasing the pressure even more. You want out and the home wants you out too. But the process of getting out is a bit extreme too. You are pushed along like a tube of toothpaste into a world completely different than the prior. There is space now.

4. Newborn

Everything is new now and curious, but also dry, heavy, strange, and frightening. You can move but only subtly with the entire body. The mouth is active especially. There is a vast contrast between the mother’s warm body and the lack thereof. Sometimes you may believe her absence means she will be gone forever. Many moments provoke a falling feeling and so the limbs constantly reflex accordingly.

5. Baby

Gradually, a little strength to move against surfaces is built. The mouth is very active as if you want to taste the world.


Crawls can begin here, but very importantly is that there is a close connection to the ground. The head will be very heavy on the ground still with the attempts at rolling and crawling. Everything comes very gradually. Listen to your subconscious baby body memory. Gradually the crawls become more complex and skilled.

Baby Walk

First begin by transitioning between crawling and developing the courage to be bipedal. At times there may be a mother or father there assisting you into this new world. Feel your large body and a torso with four limbs. Torso will have a tendency to move forward while the rest of the body struggles to catch up. You move as if you just have awareness of the four limbs and they are not at all yet differentiated into the ankle and specific surfaces of the sole of  the feet.

Feel eventually that your entire arms are being used for balance and your legs have a multidirectional form of getting from one place to the next. Sometimes you fall, but it is never a big deal. Just part of the process. It may even intrigue you.

Aged Human

Get the elderly qualia into the body for it is a major butoh motif. Feel the delicate and sensitive body. Try different types of slouch. Movements are not as smooth as they used to be. There can be parallels in movements with baby. After you get this particular qualia, you can expand the personality (e.g. combative, deviant, perverted) or any number of reductions & regenerations by X.

Example Characters

1. The Perverted Old Woman

2. The Grandpa Possessed By the Spoon

3. The Old Star Woman or The Gentle Woman Entranced by the Beauty of Life, Death, Good, and  Evil

Age Gradient

We can put the timeline of our entire life into a gradient, beginning with the egg (zyogote, when the our dad’s sperm fertilized our mother’s egg) to oldest age. We can dance the transitions between one age to another, and it does not have to be in a forward time fashion, e.g. we can shift from 27 years old to 3. This gradient is also explored with the Ouroboros psychodrama/ritual.



¹ Viala, J. and Masson-Sekine, N. (ed. ) (1988), Butoh-Shades of Darkness, Tokyo: Shufunotomo Co., Ltd. page 41.