It’s All About Butoh

I first stumbled across Butoh at the Edinburgh Festival seven years ago. A show called Zeitgiest by Brisbane-based Zen Zen Zo Physical Theatre was receiving rave reviews, and although it didn’t sound like something I’d normally choose to see, I put my faith in the critics. And, boy, am I glad I did. My friend and I left the theatre in stunned silence: Did that just happen? What just happened? Can we go back and see it again, please? Just a few of the questions whizzing around our seisimically-stimulated neurons.

Butoh is an avant garde Japanese performance art founded by Tatsumi Hijikata and Kazuo Ohno in the early 1960s in rejection of western dance and rigid Japanese dance traditions. Over the years Butoh has drawn on and fused together elements of different historical periods and influences, including expressionism, the rebellion of the 1960s, surrealism, Flamenco and mime. The result is a kind of ritualistic, primal earth-dance where the internal is externalised and the external internalised by the performer. Butoh’s unconscious improvised movements, which rely on strength, flexibility and balance, allow the body to move authentically, free of social constraints. In Butoh it is often said that ‘the dancer should not dance, but be danced’.

” Butoh is a hybrid form of art, incorporating elements of theatre, dance, mime, Noh, Kabuki and at times the Chinese arts of Chi kung and Tai chi. It is up to the individual artist to find their own dance. But it should be a “dance” of discovery, rather than a calculated series of movements meant to manipulate the audience into a desired response.” – Don McLeod

Today Butoh is an ever-developing art form which is practiced and performed across the globe.

Zen Zen Zo’s Zeitgeist is an example of Butoh at its most raw, erotic and nightmarish. Think Dali meets David Lynch with a side order of Tarantino. The show, directed by Lynne Bradley, perfectly embodied the philosophy of Butoh dance to its core: naked bodies painted white, writhing, stretching, contracting and contorting: from their eyelids to their little toes it seemed every part of each performer’s anatomy was involved in this wild, visceral fantasy. At one point they cracked raw eggs into their mouths and spewed yolk up over each other and the front row of audience. It sounds grotesque. It was. But in no way was it gratuitous – in a strange way, it was beautiful.

                                   

I got back from Edinburgh, wanting to know more about this fascinating dance form. I Googled Butoh and discovered there was a Butoh workshop taking place in Brighton the following month. That’s one of the things I love about this city: you name it, there’s a workshop for it. And more often that not, it’s here at Evolution Arts, winky face. On this occasion, however, the workshop was run by Butoh Brighton. 

Eight years on, Yael Karavan, an award winning performer, dancer and director, and one of the three founding members of Butoh Brighton, came to Evolution Arts to deliver her Butoh Dance Workshop, and I was lucky enough to be among its participants.

Israeli born Yael has trained with several Butoh Masters including Kazuo Ohno and Tadashi Endo and her passion for this dance tradition was evident from the off.

Over the course of the two days Yael took us through a series of exercises that allowed us to discover and experiment with the basic elements of Butoh. The power and intensity of Butoh became clear early on, and proved both physically and emotionally challenging, especially for those in the group with no previous dance experience. But this didn’t stop any of us from taking part and exploring the art form in the safe, encouraging and fun space Yael had created.

At times, we were separate entities growing from inside each individual cell of our body, at others we were working in pairs, responding intuitively to our partners movements and creating a spontaneous conversation with our bodies. At times, we became one large connected being, changing form and shape like the starlings over Brighton Pier.

In the very last exercise Yael put little white paper hats on our heads and transformed us into Warriors of Peace. We walked up and down the studio in the slow crouched Butoh walk – our synchronised bodies pulled along by an invisible external and internal force -, an exhausted but joyful united front calling for: ‘Peace, Health, Love, Kindness, Empathy and Justice.’ A perfect end to a unifying and powerful workshop. And, not an eggy face in sight.

Another dance workshop, CREATIVE LAND, is happening at Evolution Arts on 25 & 26 March. Run by Marcos Rangel and Rodrigo Carinhana (pictured above), this workshop welcomes any adventurous spirit, be they performer, actor, dancer or anyone in the mood for discovery. The work will focus on the quest that nourishes us, and its motivation. Using elements of Afro-Brazilian tradition (songs, rhythms and dances – see below), you’ll be encouraged to open your imagination and discover true – rather than mechanical – action and seek creative answers to the deepest demands of our being. On the way, you will discover how to listen, stay aware, react, imagine, and be entirely present in yourself. Physical training, awareness of the space, voice work and song will help create a structure of individual and collective action – a Creative Land. Book your place here.

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New autumn courses and workshops in focus

‘Winter is an etching, spring a watercolor, summer an oil painting and autumn a mosaic of them all’ – Stanley Horowitz

Though we seem to be in the midst of an Indian summer, our thoughts are now turning towards the time of year where the leaves fall from the trees, carpeting the ground in golds, oranges and browns.  The light mellows and the nights begin to draw in, bridging the gap between a soon forgotten summer and a here too soon winter.  Now’s the time to explore new pathways, discover a new passion and build your self confidence.  We suggest Evolution Arts courses as the perfect place to start. In this blog we take a look at some of the new courses and workshops starting this Autumn.

Whether you’re interested in writing, acting, painting, mindfulness or aromatherapy, we think we’ve got some fantastic courses and workshops coming up to see you through the season.

The Fool
The Fool

Acting for Everyone: A Fool’s Guide to Playing:
Whether you’re a complete beginner or a seasoned performer, come and experience A Fool’s Guide to Playing with tutor Jonathan Brown, starting 31st October. Together you’ll explore many areas including script, movement, character and improvised theatre inspired by the Archetype of The Fool. Telling the story of the moment, in the land where anything, any emotion is possible, from the irreverent to the sacred, from the daft to the deep, from the hilarious to the hallowed.

With playful exercises, these sessions will stretch your acting muscles, offering new ways to play, create and perform. Learn to develop your palette and tools, play with a broader set of choices, and find more freedom to act, both on stage, and in life. Learn through exercises, games and more, about giving licence to your imagination, using your whole body and voice, exploring your emotional range, developing a character, taking risks and incorporating your personal experience in the moment.

Collective Writing:
With tutor Pete Maguire, starting Thursday 8th October, Collective Writing is a playful series of workshops exploring the freedom and enthusiasm that writing collectively can generate. Rather than instructing creativity to arise, the workshops encourage it to appear through improvisation exercises and inventive word play. Words will be flung around the room and laughter will take precedence over the end product. The workshops will examine creative inspirations from poetry, theatre, literature and art and will culminate in a shared writing journey conjured by what is explored in the session. It’s suitable for beginners, and those more experienced, from any of the arts that would like to embark on a journey of writing discovery.

Henri Matisse, "The Dance II" (1910)
Henri Matisse, “The Dance II” (1910)

Paint Like Matisse:
With tutor Claire Harrison, starting on Sunday 18th October, this workshop will examine the French artist Henri Matisse’s use of colour and will explain how to combine bright colours successfully. The workshop will demonstrate how Matisse, widely regarded as the greatest colorist of the 20th century, painted, and the revolutionary ideas behind his painting. Suitable for all abilities as Claire helps each student on an individual basis.

Aromatherapy Blending Masterclass
Aromatherapy Blending Masterclass

Aromatherapy Blending Masterclass:
Starting Sunday 4th October, tutor Leigh-Anne Morell will lead this masterclass in blending aromatherapy to make aromatherapy candles, massage oils and bath salts. Essential oils have been used for therapeutic purposes for nearly 6,000 years and in this class you will learn both the benefits of these oils and the art of blending them. You’ll have time to develop your own special blend and whether you choose to create an energizing candle or a sensual massage oil, you’re guaranteed to go home smelling gorgeous and feeling invigorated.

Mindfulness & the Art of Urban Living
Mindfulness & the Art of Urban Living

Mindfulness & the Art of Urban Living:
Starting on Tuesday 20th October, with tutor Natasha Lythgoe, this course aims to introduce mindfulness whilst exploring ways to re-enchant our everyday urban lives rather than needing to look or go ‘elsewhere’. The course will explore how to savour our lives just as they are – wherever they are. It’s an opportunity to re-connect with notions of belonging, community and nature in the city hopefully discovering meaning and connecting with your creativity along the way.

Feeling inspired? At Evolution Arts  we offer several courses and workshops focusing on arts and crafts, the body and mind, writing, acting, photography, dance and music.  Find a new challenge, discover a new passion and become part of the Evolution community this autumn.  Call the centre on 01273 204204 or click here for more information and to book.

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