Whole Body Openers (Updated 11/08/17)

“Shed the skin of the body that has been tamed and domesticated.” – Tatsumi Hijikata

The modern human has many mummified areas of the body not in use. We must open the entire body, and this includes the hidden joints such as the sternoclavicular, intercarpal, intertarsal, and costal joints. We must also be aware of the cavities such as the abdomen and mouth.

Endless Dots

Feel thousands of dots all throughout the body. Imagine that each of these dots is a star or universe. Each is a unique dancer. See Figure 2.

Figure 2, Endless Dots Body


Visualize your entire body breaking to tiny bits. Dance the new motions that result.

Odd Disco Dancer

Some naturally move a lot of their body at the disco. We can use this and take it further. Try disco dancing while in strange or difficult positions such as on all fours or bridge, handstand against the wall, or while hugging a tree with all four limbs. Make use of upbeat music.

Non-Mover Investigator

Try very hard to find areas that you have been hiding from yourself. If you find them and you still cannot move them, move around them and over time, you will get closer and closer to the target. This exercise can be taken further by having someone possess the movement wand which will be a flower or weed which they can touch to any part of the body that they feel is being ignored. Whichever part of the body is touched is to be danced.

Body Fish Tank

This exercise was shown by Denise Fujiwara at the 2000 Seattle Butoh Festival. The dancer’s body is full of water. A single fish swims to every location. Then more fish appear till there a hundred. Then the process reverses until all the fish disappear. Originally, the movements are meant to be minimal, but also try larger movement if this resonates.

Traveling Motif

The traveling motif is a good exercise in remapping or rebounding movement or felt qualias. One participant is to create one form of movement, whether it be with the whole body or a segment of it (like with the head or arm). Then someone calls out a different body part in which the same movement or felt qualia is immitated. For instance, if one participant decided to engage in figure 8s with the hips, and somebody called out eyebrows, then the participant is to shift the hip figure 8s to the eyebrows.

The most important thing is to never die or give up. Movement will always continue. Even if the eyes are the only things left working, then the eyes will become the dancer. This exercise will condition one into noting that there are multiple paths to one such subject or theme. If we think of the body as a multiplicity of dancers, we will not have just one dancer, but 10,000 dancers.

Essentially, this exercise converts the body into a rhizome, of which Deleuze and Guattari state, “may be broken, shattered at a given spot, but it will start up again on one of its old lines, or on new lines. You can never get rid of ants because they form an animal rhizome that can rebound time and again after most of it has been destroyed.”¹ Let your body be as these rebounding ants.

Hijikata’s Bugs Crawl

The following is a butoh score (butoh-fu) of Tatsumi Hijikata. Similair to Body Fish Tank, it utilizes the small animal kingdom to open/catharsize the entire body.²

A bug is crawling on the back of your right hand.

A second bug is creeping down from your left side of your neck to your back.

A third bug is wriggling up along your inner thigh.

A fourth bug is squirming down from your left shoulder to your chest.

A fifth bug….

Ah, where is it ?

You’re so itchy, here and there. You can’t stand still.

Itchiness is shoving you all around.

Itchiness under your chin, itchiness at the base of your ears, itchiness around your elbows, itchiness around your kneecaps, itchiness around your waist.

Ah! There’re five-hundred of them!

Around  your eyes, around  your mouth, in your ears, between your fingers, in every mucous membrane,

Five  thousand bugs;

A bug on every hair;

A bug in every pore;

From there two hundred thousand bugs are crawling down into your guts and drilling them voraciously.

Having eaten them up the bugs are coming out of your body through the pores.

Now they are eating the space around your body.

Now the bugs are full of the outer space and are being eaten (together with it ) by another kind of bugs.

Lo! The whole universe is being eaten up by another-another kind of bugs.

(Half a billion bugs on a tree. The inside is all gone.)

This is the end of the world.

All has deceased.

(What is dreamed in mind is what exists as reality in the universe.)


¹ Deleuze, Gilles, and Félix Guattari. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. London: Continuum, 2004. Page 9. Print.
² Kayo Mikam. ‘The Human Body as a Vessel-an approach to Tatsumi Hijikata’s Ankoku Butoh‘ (1992, ANZ Publishers)