open butoh research

enjoy, copy, remix & share . . .

… allowing access, passage, or a view through; not closed or blocked. With the outer edges or sides drawn away from each other; unfolded or spread out. With no restrictions on those allowed to participate. Welcoming public discussion, criticism, and enquiry.

… a form of Japanese dance theater that encompasses a diverse range of activities, techniques and motivations for dance , performance, or movement. Following World War II, butoh arose in 1959 through collaborations between its two key founders Hijikata Tatsumi and Ohno Kazuo. Common features of the art form include playful and grotesque imagery, taboo topics, extreme or absurd environments, and it is traditionally performed in white body makeup with slow hyper-controlled motion. However, with time butoh groups are increasingly being formed around the world, with their various aesthetic ideals and intentions.

… investigation or experimentation aimed at the discovery and interpretation of facts, revision of accepted theories or laws in the light of new facts, or practical application of such new or revised theories or laws. The collecting of information about a particular subject.

Ash Walk exercise

Stand with feet close together and knees slightly bend. Glass-ball Eyes.

  1. Imagine that you are burning from the top of your head to the bottom of he feet. Everything is burning: your body, your past, your future, your mind. Only a column of ash remains…
  2. Very slowly start moving forward, carrying this column of ash.
  3. Feel yourself as a column of ash. Be aware that you can collapse into dust at any moment.
  4. Slowly keep moving forward…

“Become an column of ash. Imagine that your physical body is burned out, life strength has drained away, mind, heart, soul and spirit have left. Carry your ash body as quietly as possible and as slowly as possible. Attention half inside half outside. Become nothing. Become transparency.

“Ash walk is the most basic training of butoh. Try ash walk every day at least one time. You can do it in the smallest space.” – Rhizome Lee

The Ash Walk is a great way to get into subbody mode, the state of trance where it feels more like you are being moved than that you are moving something. Therefore it can be a nice way to start a performance.

Infinite variations are possible:

  • Do the Ash Walk with only the lower part of the body and leave the upper body free.
  • Start with Ash Walk and slowly transform into your mystery or secret or something.
  • Form a moving Ash Wall with several performers.
  • Invent your own variation…

Doing the Ash Walk with full concentration for a long time can be a mind blowing experience. Try this both in nature and in public places.

  1. Look at a point about 1 meter in front of you.
  2. Fix the eyes in this position, looking straight out of your head.
  3. Do not focus, instead put your attention on the edges of your visual field.

“Don Juan had delineated another procedure: walking for long stretches without focusing the eyes on anything. His recommendation had been to not look at anything directly but, by slightly crossing the eyes, to keep a peripheral view of everything that presented itself to the eyes.”

“He had insisted that if one kept one’s unfocused eyes at a point just above the horizon, it was possible to notice, at once, everything in almost the total 180-degree range in front of one’s eyes.”

– Carlos Castaneda

  1. Pick a spot on a wall and look at it (if you’re not near a wall just look at anything upon which you can focus).
  2. Now, let your awareness expand so that, although you’re still looking in the direction of the spot you’re not looking at it. Allow yourself to get the sense that you can almost see 360 degrees—that you have awareness in all directions. You’ll feel a shift as you do this.
  3. While keeping this visual expansion, let you attention go to your hearing and realize that your awareness of sound also extends out from your body in every direction.
  4. Now add your skin. Imagine that you can feel and are spatially aware of everything in your environment—in all directions.

It’s a good idea to practice going back on forth from looking at the spot, to the trance. As you become more adept at recognizing the feeling of trance you also become more adept at creating it for yourself! – Huna

The purpose of the conditioning is to get into trance, shift viewpoint and start resonating.

Trance is a tool to switch off your talking mind and get sensitive enough to be able to connect to the subtle qualia that will prime your movements. The talking mind is very young when perceived from the viewpoint of the totality of life and the evolutionary time span.

A quick look at the state of human culture proves that this talking, reasoning mind is pretty immature and still full of bugs. It perceives itself disconnected from the world and is busy with either the past or the future. It might be a good tool for a politician but for the butoh dancer the talking mind is of very little use.

It is the older minds and mind-like structures, collectively called the subconscious, that are rooted in here and now and connected to the totality of life. Like martial arts, butoh begins from the belly...

Once a trance has been achieved, shamanic techniques like noble silence, controlled breath and un-focusing the eyes are used to sink into the darkness of your body and thus change viewpoint.

With your daily mind gone and your viewpoint shifted into the body, it is easy to connect to the world through your sub-minds and start resonating with the universe around you. Thus sub-bodies are born...