Butoh

Stephanie Mann

March 3rd, 2016

 

 

I attended a workshop called Body/Mind/Funk/Time for two resident artists at the Intermedia Arts. The workshop consisted of both teaching, demonstration and an oral history of the dance style called Butoh featured in Flash premiering March 3rd and 4th, 2017. The choreographers are Rennie Harris and Michael Sakamoto. The history of Butoh was pollinated by conversations between artist  about identity as the times resonated  with oppression and the suppression of identity, the postwar urban subcultures of both Butoh and Hip-Hop formed from a generation that searches for identity and longed for a sense of place. The two styles of dance influenced by Japanese cultures in America and the American created Hip-Hop style. The mission of the choreographers is to be able to create a cultural identity through the conversation of dance. Both choreographers are experts or gurus when it comes to movement in dance. The description of the workshop on the website talked about the demonstration of a series of movement as it relates to the sequences and images.
Butoh choreography series of images, where the movement is immolating a pictorial of sequences.  The sequences are demonstrated as the body of the dancer will experience ostensible unison of the different creative movements. Butoh is about subjectivity. It’s not about self-indulgence. The invention of Butoh is intended to creates a balance of the individual experience which is subjective to connectivity. Michael Sakamoto is not necessarily a hip-hop artist, He talks to the audience about his love of hip hop, and how it developed when the rising artist and apart of the duo was an adolescent and teenager he started seeing bits and pieces of music videos which introduced him to a world that was different from what he was used to. Media played a second-hand role in introducing the genre of Hip-Hop to Sakamoto, and the Butoh artist identified with it because a community was observed for its language i.e.

Hip-hop of expression. Pop Locking is a favorite Rennie Harris the other half of the duo, is a Hip-Hop artist that loves Butoh. They got together for the similar interest in style, both forms create an illusion underneath the skin.
Off center, asymmetrical and everything that ballet is not. Mentenaka is the Pioneer for the dance, and is mentioned briefly during the introduction to the style.

The workshop started with a quick exercise time framing, walking in no particular direction, focusing on breath. Focus on how you feel to get a sense of how the breath connect with your body. Pay attention to the breath, movement, speed and time. There are speeds that are medium and large and small. Sakamoto asked the participants to notice the environment details, lighting, color.  Sakamoto accelerated number to seven to have a challenge to do all observations without rushing. Ten is maximum. Breath in tempos everything is a continuum. He counts down from nine. Time framing the illusion of slow motion, using an icebergs notion of time as an example. The class is extremely diverse, at least three African American women, Caucasian Americans, everyone was different from each other. Asian men and women from young twenties to early 50’s. A total mix up of cultures, different walks of life all here for the same event in Uptown at Intermedia Arts. The movements get more and more slow. As the movements, slow down, the instructor notes how all of the participants are more aware of their movement. He then accelerates the movement and deescalates it simultaneously by calling out different numbers to indicate the change in tempo. This group is mostly women.

The style of dance was very new to me, as a dancer I totally understood the exercises to introduce a class to new dance style, as a teacher he seemed to have talked about the dance a lot because after a very brief introduction Michael Sakamoto, who was the instructor for the evening, wasting no time getting the group on their feet and moving. I enjoyed how extremely open everyone in the workshop was trying out something new without a hint of self-consciousness, this helped the experience to be seamless as the participation was at 100%, and the instructor, Michael walked his students through the instruction of the dance with experience, patience and a good sense of time management. Before the event began Sakamoto let the participants know that the workshop may go over time, no one seemed to mind

This is a freestyle demonstration its always difficult to capture movement, but I felt like the diversity and every ones openness to explore this new dance style was worth capturing.

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