“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 Noguchi Taiso, 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 used 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
Yearly Butoh Study Programs
These facilities are the only sorts of Asbestos Studio reincarnations.
Seasonal Butoh Study Programs
Honza Svazek’s Free Butoh School program is an ultra-budget 3-month winter program situated in a camp in South India.
Increasing the Demographic
The main demographics that take butoh laboratories or workshops are generally young to middle-aged adults, theatre/dance practitioners, and body workers. However, butoh has the capacity to spreading freely to other demographics:
To name a few, Ikko Tamura (of Dairakudakan),9 Yukio Suzuki,10 Yumi Umiumare,11 and Julie Becton Gillum12 have all devised personal methods for teaching children butoh.
Ikko Tamaru9 and TO-EN Butoh Company13 have systems for teaching seniors butoh.
The differently abled
Natsu Nakajima14 and Gio have devised systems for teaching the differently abled. Gio engaged in a “Wheelchair Butoh” project in Hungary for one week in 2015 and also in 2019.15
Vangeline16 devised a system for teaching butoh to inmates.
It is recommend to follow the principles of trauma-informed guiding in order to ensure a safe enough space for participants to practice in. Fallot and Harris’ five principles include: (1) ensuring safety; (2) establishing trustworthiness; (3) maximizing choice; (4) maximizing collaboration; (5) prioritizing collaboration.8
The guiding method of Shadowbody butoh attempts 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 did 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.
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 for not 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.
Have some sort of signaling device such as a singing bowl or a chime to mark clear beginnings, endings, or transitions. It is also recommended to give participants enough time to “find an ending” before engaging an ending signal.
Pauses in silence (1 minute, 2 minutes or more) are recommended such as after a signal or times when the guide feels the partitioner may need to process.
No talking at breaks. This keeps the process going.