“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. We must wake up! As Artaud once wrote, “The theater of cruelty wants to make the eyelids dance in pairs with the elbows, the kneecaps, the thighbones and the toes, and wants to be seen.”¹
Several of the following exercises in this section are good examples of multiplicity exercises. Generally, in butoh, instead of there being one dancer, there are an endless amount of dancers within (or meta-dancers). Deleuze and Guattari say of this multiplicity: “Each element ceaselessly varies and alters its distance in relation to the others. On the Wolf-Man’s nose, the elements, determined as pores in the skin, little scars in the pores, little ruts in the scar tissue, ceaselessly dance, grow, and diminish. These variable distances are not extensive quantities divisible by each other; rather, each is indivisible, or ‘relatively indivisible.'”²
Whether the elements are pores, cells, or micro facial expressions, the idea is to see them all as distinct dancers. In other words, we are seeing all the intriguing trees in the forest instead of “just a forest.” In Tatsumi Hijikata’s butoh score Quiet House, he called this concept the nest (nest body, nest eyes, etc.).6
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.
Visualize your entire body breaking to tiny bits. Dance the new motions that result.
Partial List of Locomotor & Nonlocomotor Movements
This list comes from Helen Landalf and Pamela Gerke, and is used to teach children how to move. Go through the entire list and especially mix and match them!³
crawl, gallop, hop, jump, leap, roll, run, scoot, slide, slither, tiptoe, walk
bend, carve, dab, flick, float, glide, poke, press, punch, shake, slash, spin, squirm, stretch, swing, turn, twist, wiggle, wring
We can choose to put the degree of this breaking (becoming-multiplicity) into a gradient system, where one end is one unit (one dancer, 0% segmentation) and the other, endless units (100% segmentation).
Play along the gradient of segmentation, e.g. 37% → 20%, 70% → 90%.
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.
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.
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.
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.”4
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. This exercise can also be used as a means to empty the body, the first step of butoh creation.
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.)5
We can never get enough of the elements qualia into our body. There’s a reason why they are even important in works of magick. The elements can also be other ways in which to embody different forms of density. The density increases, for instance, from air, water, to earth.
Feel the water body. Water takes on many forms. Feel the soft but also the turbulent, e.g. gentle waves or a whirlpool. Perhaps even make the sound of the varying forms of water. You may also feel the body as a hollow human-shaped plastic bag with open ends. Feel water entering through in varying ways, soft or turbulent. Find deep nurture. Physically touch water.
Feel lightness like a feather or a leaf. Wind, like water, can take on both gentle and turbulent forms. Make breath sounds. Find gentle spring air or tornadoes. Find aloofness or space to finally breathe. Physically feel the air.
Feel the varying fire qualias such as camp fire or burning passion. Flames can have a knife-like dance. Perhaps make cracking sounds. Feel excessively elevated or overtaken by a calm warmth. If there is fire nearby, feel the warmth.
Resonate with the ground itself. Other forms of bodywork may utilize props (yoga mats, cushions) but I recommend not using any props in order to build a deeper relationship with the floor or ground itself. A rock or dirt in the hands may help resonate with earth. The sound of an earthquake may assist in resonation. Stomping or pounding the ground may assist in developing this qualia for earth much like it is often done in African dance.
One does not need to get stuck on one element, but can explore the in-between zones. Try shifting smoothly between the elements.
Exercise 1: 4 Element Shift
Resonate with changing the four elements in your body by will.
Exercise 2: 4 Element Chimera
In chimera fashion, make earth your head, ir your right arm, water your left arm, and fire your feet. You can also do this while on your back.