Pedagogy (Updated: 04/14/2019)

“At first glance, ‘butoh pedagogy’ may seem to be an amorphous concept, as there are nearly as many teaching methods and aesthetic styles as there are practitioners in this increasingly global community.” – Tonya Calamoneri5

Teachers are everywhere from the plants to animals to all the artificial phenomena. If we learn to resonate with or embody the vast degree of life differentiations, we will automatically invoke butoh. Before Hijikata, what was there? How did Hijikata found butoh? We should all be in this creator state, the state of Hijikata founding something we today call butoh.

Being around like minds, of course, tends to help. But where are they?


“What attracted me so strongly to butoh, both performing it for the first time and then in subsequent workshops, was the process of experiential learning and freedom of exploration with the body as its locus.” – Katherine Adamenko7

Generally, people are exposed to butoh through international workshops ranging from 1 day to 1 month. Butoh workshops can take place inside and/or outside. They generally begin with some form of warm-up which can borrow from yoga, qi-gong, meditation, theatre game, or any form of nurturing and/or body-awakening practice.

Music is sometimes used (sometimes live), but not always. Rhizome Lee uses no music. Valentin Tszin in one workshop used a metronome sound.*

Depending on the guide, the range or combination between improvisation and form/choreography will vary. Kazuo Ohno gravitated towards pure improvisation, whereas Tatsumi Hijikata was a stickler on form based off his butoh-fu.

Merging Life With Butoh

“When I was in Asbestos- kan, I was immersed in butoh all day. The distinction between the usual and the unusual disappeared, and everything completely mixed together. There was even butoh in eating a meal.” –  Kobayashi Saga¹

The short stints of butoh workshops however were not how butoh began. Tatsumi Hijikata’s Asbestos Studio was a serious investment of time. Kayo Mikami mentions that the daily stance of devoting one’s life to butoh and dropping out of society was the first step to approaching butoh.²

Himalaya Subbody Butoh Center, A dedicated butoh school, laboratory, and research center

SU-EN Butoh Company, Nordic School of Butoh6, and Himalaya Subbody Butoh are the only year-long butoh study facilities in the world.

Rhizome Lee’s Himalaya Subbody Butoh Center in Dharmasala, India is an anybody-welcome full-time research/laboratory and training facility. It was constructed 15 years ago specifically for the purpose of butoh research. Subbody condones 100% butoh immersion or what Rhizome Lee calls 24 hour Subbody.

These facilities are the only sorts of Asbestos Studio reincarnations.

Non-Hierarchical Guiding

The guiding method of both Subbody and Shadowbody butoh tries to approach non-hierarchy. This certainly is different from how Tatsumi Hijikata taught, which was totalitarian in a way.4 Everyone had to specifically follow his butoh-fu.

In non-hierarchical guiding, everyone is a co-creator or co-creator in training. This is why Rhizome Lee does not use the term “teacher” but instead “midwife.” A butoh midwife is a holder of space, facilitating the passage of others’ latent infinite creative potential. Akaji Maro of Dairakudakan also makes use of the term in a similar way.³ Eventually everyone becomes a midwife, helping facilitate a complicated multi-rhizomic network of co-creators.

The distinction between teacher and non-teacher is blurred. Everyone is an administudent and captrainee.

Guiding Recommendations

Class = Performance

The class is encouraged to double as a performance itself. Everybody involved is both performer and audience (perfobserver and spectactor). The transitions from one theme to the next are to be paid attention to. There is no time of keeping active or not being in medimotion.


The unexpected is to be integrated. This is utilizing the concept “yes, and” into the research space.


When the guide delivers a concept with examples, eventually the space is opened for the others to generate their own example of the concept in mind.



* Account from Valentin’s workshop at eX…it Butoh Festival in Pasewalk, Germany. 2015.
¹ Coker, Caitlin. The Daily Practice of Hijikata Tatsumi’s Appretices from 1969 to 1978. The Routledge Companion to Butoh Performance, Routledge, 2018, p. 412.
² Mikami, Kayo. 1993. Utsuwa Toshite no Shintai-Hijikata Tatsumi, Ankoku Butoh he no apurouchi . Anz dou. Page 79-82.
³ Aihara, Tomoe. Translated by Robert Ono. The Routledge Companion to Butoh Performance. Routledge, 2018, p. 181, 190.
4 Inata, Naomi. 2008. Hijikata Tatsumi: Zetsugo no Shintai . NHK Publishing Company. Page 452.
5 Calamoneri, Tanya. The Daily Practice of Hijikata Tatsumi’s Appretices from 1969 to 1978. The Routledge Companion to Butoh Performance, Routledge, 2018, p. 412.
6 Ibid. Page 421.
7 Adamenko, Katherine. On and Through the Butoh Body. The Routledge Companion to Butoh Performance. 2018, p. 447.