Eyes open when dreaming… Day 1 with Hiroko Tomano

Today was day 1 of what I’m going to call “Eyes Open When Dreaming” or my dance experience training with legendary butoh artist Hiroko Tomano.

I’m going to keep these pretty personal… and maybe get into some history… or more likely post links to butoh history… like HERE

But today will be more of an exercise in stream of consciousness, memory and notation.

So. I showed up kinda grumpy because I have a lot on my plate and it can sometimes be easier to neglect myself instead of take the time to be present with my body and feelings when I’m that stressed. Which is EXACTLY why I needed to be doing Hiroko’s “Butoh Tune Up” class from 12-2. I also realized something else, that I was walking into this with the expectation that the butoh training will make me feel better. I’m glad I had 5 minutes to examine that thought before jumping into class. If I had held that expectation in my consciousness I probably would have left feeling terrible and never wanting to come back.  Butoh isn’t like a vigorous cycle class at 24 hour fitness where you come in pound out a mile or 5, shower and go back to your desk job. While, yes the Butoh often get’s me “””***there***””” that magical mysterious body centric ecstatic tears falling I don’t-know-whats-happening-but-I-love-it space, I can’t expect it to make me feel better. I know on some level consciously moving my body and being in a group of playful and open hearted people will support good feelings in my body and heart. I know exercise is my prescription for depression. I know these things, I just can’t EXPECT THEM.

We started today watching Hiroko teach us how to ring out dirty rags in a water bucket after mopping the stage/floor in a very ritualistic way.

*Wipe floor, kneel down, Mona Lisa, slug push, clean a new space, walk into new space, fox, and trot across floor.

These were the instructions we got with some very colorful and animated gestures.

We watched and learned how H. wanted us to clean some towels and I was content to continue watching this for the next hour (you never know) until I guess H. changed her mind and we all met on stage for our warm up.

Hiroko and Harupin Ha (her dance company) have developed this amazing image based warm up which is part tai-chi, part prayer and part symbolic categorization practice. Face east arm reaches out hand becomes big becomes wing stretches over shoulder comes  back to you- STEP OVER the mountain- monkey hits tree- hug tree down to the earth- stretch roots to earth such earth energy up, kisss ground with foot- lift energy up through body- POP out of head- now tree suck sunlight (or darkness depending on where you’re facing) – bring down to air bag on back- make offering with hands prayer hands present to EAST- east being what is new, our future, dawn light (air) we then accept the intelligence from the east through our intercostals in our ribs through our hearts and make an offering to the WEST- which is our ancestors, our dreams, water and memory… We repeat this over and over for reach direction with different symbolic references for each direction. Now, I’ve been around the new age movement, I’ve read wicca books, I hang out with radical faeries, I’m kinda witchy, I’ve read lots on shamanism and global religion… honoring the four directions is pretty core to any indigenous spiritual system and any pop! culture witchery. What, surprises me about this approach is how deeply woven this practice is into the body via the use of imagery. Hiroko has been developing this one for a while now. Even though she could be making all this up on the spot there is an essence and an ease to her movement that rings of authenticity and earnest rigor. East was the future, South was the old woman with seeds in her basket– yet also the future generations, WEST was the ancestors, our history, their hopes and dreams, tragedy and sorrow, North was the wisdom of the elders… and our bodies were the sky and the earth. And thus we created and energetic axis in which to work! Another thing that strikes me about this particular ritual is how we make offerings of our self to one direction and then bridge that genius or intelligence from one direction and offer it to it’s polar opposite. Synthesis.

We sat in a circle and became things.. Quasi Moto, A Flower. I ended up becoming a Poplar Tree instead of a flower… oh and we became a Salmon… we became the life of a Salmon from egg to maturity to death… It was all very swift and unpredictable. Hiroko is like a waterfall of imagination contained in this body which seems to bounce into new animations and gestures constantly.

I had to surrender to Hiroko’s process and accept what she’s offering. Which is funny because I have NO problem in class putting on my DIVA cap and asking blunt questions if I don’t understand. With H. I feel no one really knows and in some cases I think she’s planning that. So, I put my DIVA card away and became a salmon from egg to maturity and back again to death all in under 2 minutes!

Later in the class when we were sitting in a circle H. said.

“You must keep your eyes open when dreaming.”

And then she went on to describe imagery exercises tied together with physical exercises. This was a lot of neck turning, fine motor skills, isolation and breathwork. This I think is the core of her “Tune Ups” because it effortlessly marry’s imaginative practice with challenging and useful physical tasks and repeat motion exercises. My favorite being when we push open the gates with our arms pressing against invisible gates from our shoulders out… and this simultaneously opened up the gates holding our 3rd eye closed. So now we have “all three eyes OPEN!”

Keep your eyes open while dreaming. This is my take home today. Keep your eyes open while dreaming. How can I keep my senses alive and registering information while I’m dreaming. While I’m asleep? While I’m serving tables? While I’m biking home? While I’m dancing? While I’m dreaming. Keep the eyes open while dreaming…






About Kaj-anne Pepper

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