When your subconscious dances

Exploring Butoh, an almost naked dance form born out of resistance against the West following WW II

Published: 01st February 2017 06:04 AM  |   Last Updated: 01st February 2017 06:04 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

BENGALURU: Following World War II, Japanese student unrest and protests marked the country’s transition phase to stabilisation. It was a country still holding onto its old world traditional values while being forced into western democratic ones by the US conquest. This avant garde performance art from the 1960’s Japan makes its way to the city this year with the ‘Bangalore Dance Festival’.

From the Streets of Japan

Theatre groups used to perform socially challenging pieces, and there were daily demonstrations on the Japanese streets during those times. Under the collaboration by Hijikita Tatsumi and Ohno Kazuo, butoh developed as a reaction against the Japanese dance scene, which Hijikita felt, was imitating the West. The first edition of this dance festival is being organised by Stance Dance Academy, which is being held until February 5. Bharath Kishore aka RVJ Bharath, director, Bangalore Dance Festival and artistic director of Stance Dance Academy says, “There are two parts to this festival - Bangalore House Festival and Bangalore Butoh Festival. We had the festival in Tumkur for a week and we are having it in Bengaluru now.”

Dance Workshops

As part of the festival, workshops on dance are being held at different venues by the international trainers like Rhizome Lee from Japan, Honza Svasek from Netherlands, Pualina Almeida from Portugal and Gorka Ferrero from Spain. The festival will conclude with the final performance on February 5 by the trainers and the participants. About 35 artists from the city are participating in the programme. The 25-year-old Bharath adds, “It will be a fusion of house and butoh.” During the Butoh India tour last year, Bharath learned about the dance form and its scope. He says, “Unlike the other dance forms, Butoh is very open. There is nothing right  or wrong. Every practitioner has his own way of expressing and the creative process is formed within the body. You portray concepts through body movements. There is a lot of inner consciousness involved.”

Tapping into the Subconscious Mind

Butoh focuses on breaking the stereotypes and bending the rules. The Japanese contemporary dance theatre makes use of your subconscious mind to create a performance, says Bharath. He adds, “It can be performed on terraces or graveyards. It was born out of anarchy and talks about breaking rules of all systems. It has abstract themes, which leaves the viewers with their own perspectives or takes on the performance. The performers paint themselves white while dancing. The movements involve lots of twisted limbs and face. The focus is not on individual but the expressions and emotions on his face.”

A Butoh practitioner from Netherlands and a trainer at the workshop Honza Svasek, adds, “The human body is made of a trillion of cells and all cells have its own memory. It is possible to get access to the memory of your cells since your birth through Butoh. You need to be in trance or meditative state to be there. It is intense.” Honza has been working with the Japanese master Rhizome Lee, who has been running a school of Butoh in Dharamshala from two years. It can be performed by men, women and children. Bharath says, “It is not difficult, but requires training. A lot of mental abilities are required to perform as the subconscious mind is in use during the performance. It has deeper philosophies attached to it.”

Being a Subbody

A workshop participant Morgan Campbell, 35, adds, “You need to have an open mind. You can’t judge the art form. It is about the idea of being a subbody.” The workshop commenced with a guided meditation. Subbody is unification of subconsciousness and body. Morgan says, “It was nice exercise. You need to then think of different animals and relate to their bodies. Everyone had to perform any action of an animal. You did not know what to expect. Someone performed on crocodile. I mimicked the movement of a cockroach, trying to turn over. I do not know how my mind got through that but it was liberating.”

Almost Naked

The urban planner who is now working on a thesis was fascinated by the dance form when she saw the documentary book and pictures of Sankai Juku, a Butoh practitioner. “That was my first encounter with it. All I saw was images of almost naked bodies, powdered white with expressions. It stayed with me for a long time and I was intrigued to know more about it.” Another participant and a dance instructor Rachel Pradhan says it is different from dancing. She learned about the art form from Bharath and wanted to try it. “It is a simple form of dance. It is natural and involves lot a of imagination. You need to be more creative. You need to create your own steps, unlike the other dance forms where you learn step by step. You need to follow the instructors and go with the flow. The first class was good and I am looking forward to other sessions.” The final performance will be held on February 5 at Shoonya from 7 to 9.30 pm.

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