Butō is a form of artistic dance which is in direct opposition to Kabuki and Noh. Bodies painted white, tortured and twisted, set out to explore the depths of the human.
An enchanting dance experience
Often called "dance of darkness", Butoh is minimalist and poetic. Free to be performed by the dancer and interpreted by the spectator, there are as many styles as dancers, but the similarity is always the often ghostly appearance, whereby the dancers have painted their bodies white and shaved their heads. The movements are slow and hanging, as if they were jolts. The experience is mesmerising.
The origins of Butoh
Created in the 1960s by Tatsumi Hijikata, Butoh is a dance that breaks away from the traditional performance arts of Kabuki and Noh. While the Japanese aesthetic of the performing arts at the time favoured harmonious gestures, Butō took the opposite approach, and sought to express dissonance and ugliness. In fact, Butō was born during the post-war period, when Japan, like many other countries in the world, was experiencing an upheaval of values and identities, and a sociopolitical context of turbulence and rejection of the established order. Among its sources of inspiration are the European avant-garde movements such as French surrealism and German expressionism.
A universal art
But it is not only the state of post-war Japan that Butō seeks to portray. Steeped in Buddhist and Shinto influences, Butoh explores the question of meaning, and seeks direct communication between dancer and body, dancer and audience. Butoh often deals with issues of pain and grotesque imagery, subjects that are taboo. But the themes are meant to be universal and often transcendental.
Butoh-kan: the place to see Butō
The Butoh-kan is hidden in a Kyoto backstreet and is a restored former 'kura' warehouse. The performance room is small and can accommodate no more than a dozen people. While Butoh is becoming increasingly popular abroad, there are still only a few places to see it in Japan, but the Butoh-kan is one of the most passionately dedicated to the art.