Hokohtai: The Walking Body. SJ 10/04/17

(“Why go to Japan?”)

Stacey – Following the Brush with Butoh 10/4/17

Do not fight with a difficult sentence, but take it outside for a walk. Nature and the movement of your body will resolve the matter”. Constantin Heger: Emily and Charlotte Brontë’s tutor in Brussels

Remembering the route of one’s process is vital and so easily forgotten or indeed, lost. I had lost my way in the mid-planning stages of the trip and barely noticed. But Why Am I going to Japan? stopped me in my tracks and called into question the direction I was taking, against my natural instinct as a performer/maker. What can I, myself, take from the experience of Japan in relation to the ‘other’ (this project, my collaborators, another culture and landscape)? What are my opportunities beyond this project which this research trip will open up?

Trying to accommodate others, the self loses its way so effortlessly. I knew I had to follow my own brush – create a movement of researching and recording similar to my usual practice, where to play/explore/discover/express is my generating force.

I had been looking at traditional (‘male’) forms of Japanese performance, layering on top of my own culturally constructed self a culturally constructed other. Our project is a meeting between the north of Japan and the north of England to ask what imaginary world might lie between them, this I knew. Now I realised I needed my own routes and practice to criss-cross both landscapes, finding ways of “unmasking the culturally mannered body” (Sondra Horton Fraleigh)both my own body, and those of Japan’s masculine performative arts, Noh and Kabuki (though Kabuki began with a women’s group).

I find in Fraleigh’s book about Butoh a link to the theatre that excites me most: Tanztheater Wuppertal and Théâtre de Soleil. Fraleigh has become a source of inspiration and excitement and a new bridge in my own thoughts during the planning of our research trip:

“When we experience ourselves through another cultural lens, we are enriched. When we interpret another culture through our own lens, we bring the difference the other can bring – sometimes the same things that insiders see, but more often aspects that bridge the known with the strange. And it is the strangeness of the unknown (how it can rearrange our perceptual field) that calls us to travel across the bridge of difference, after all. Then, when the familiar territory is given up, the traveller can stand in a new, unfamiliar, place where worlds (and they are whole worlds) meet.” (Dancing into Darkness, Fraleigh)

Like Emily, I’ve begun “looking oppositely /For the site of the Kingdom of Heaven” (Emily Dickinson) –  towards a physical language that will explore the attractions and repulsions between East and West and the generation of a third world and language expressing a child’s culture – a Gondal – a ghost land – on the borders between the two. “She should have been a man (sic)….a great navigator” (Heger re. Emily).

Emily found creativity in walking these moors. The root of Butoh is walking. My own personal practice in the last five years as a psychophysical performer is to walk, responding to landscape, improvising with the experience of the walk, and then interpreting both physical and mental action through the journey in performance.

…. the landscape helped me react to the here and now essential in improvisation; to remember to listen beyond the habitual, culturally constructed self. To attend to the architecture of the land and then apply this level of looking and listening to the improvisations in the evening enabled me to remain immersed and responsive. (SJ, practice diary “Fifty Steps”for ACE)

So: before we leave, I am working with Margie Gillis, international Canadian dance legend, on Butoh skills at our Whitestone studio. I have booked to see Ima Tenko’s Butoh performance of Hisoku at Kyoto Butoh Kan, and will attend a Butoh workshop at the Kazuo Ohno Dance Studio in Tokyo, lead by Yoshito Ohno. Then we head to the far North to Mount Osore (恐山 Osore-zan) on the remote Shimokita Peninsula, to explore and record the entrance to the other world of an afterlife sacred to dead children; then to Tono, to experience rural farming rhythms and the art of storytelling and folklore.

Each day of the trip I intend to produce short physical/dance reflections alongside written responses as part of the process of research and professional development that will also influence whatever will become our Arashi no Ie.

(I’m hoping Simon will video some of them for the blog).