Eyes Open When Dreaming Day 2 with Hiroko Tomano

“Don’t go crazy, go with crazy…”

She said as our arms extended over the horizon to become wings as we stretch over our heads while keeping our hips and knees facing in front of us so our full upper body is open. 

“It’s about sensation” 

Today, day two of Butoh tune-ups with Hiroko Tomano as exceptionally more challenging than yesterday. We spent what felt like 30minutes with our arms out doing these flamenco variations with very detailed instructions. Keep wind under your heel, twist, reach out, arms out fingertips energy. I felt it was jazz hands until minute ten when the burn started to set in… all over me. We walked forward and backwards across the stage. On our return moving backward we would do this crazy open hip releve 5th position replacement move, all with our chest sunk in as we “accept all the universe has to offer.”

There is a theme here. Giving/Receiving. All of this dance is about what we are giving and what we are receiving simultaneously. We got more detailed instructions on the 4 directions dance as well as a lengthy imagery based meditative walking ritual which I call Tomano-body. 

She gives us a never ending set of images to install into our joints, our muscles, our head, our heart…creating an ecosystem of imagination and at times existential inquiry. Mostly it’s challenging. 
I’m learning to listen to my critic and then set my critic aside while dancing. I don’t want to let go of my observer mind, but I need to learn how to step aside from experiencing the entire class from the critics point of view. I’m there to DANCE.

But I’m also here to write and learn.

Things that came up for me today.

How are we ever still when the earth is moving around us, the stars are moving around us, and the cells in our bodies are constantly changing and dying and reproducing? Does STILLNESS exist?
Where does Butoh come from? Does Butoh even exist? What role do westerners (americans) play in the cultivation and furthering of the butoh art form? If Butoh is at heart a mystery why do I bother learning “technique”? Am I or am I not interested in the cultivation of character… are images and physical exhaustion enough for a performance? (no) How does authenticity become embodied in this form?

Something that struck me about H. today was her explanation of how to build the sensitivity to sensation. “Listen to the sound of the earth moving, let your ears get so big they can hear the stars burning.”


I’m taking that as … it’s not about THINKING about the concept as much as SENSING it with the body.

How can I build a critical and sensitive relationship with the history of butoh as an artform AS WELL AS diving full force into the esoteric and “woo-woo” mechanisms inherit in improvisational imaginative play? On one hand I’m looking to define and categorize butoh in the history of performance art.. you know “post hiroshima movement form…” (read the wikipedia page) and on the other hand I have this idea that butoh is another manifestation of the earth or life building consciousness that reaches beyond our modern minds current numbness. Will Butoh’s absurdity re-affirm my humanity? Or my place in the natural world? Is butoh another Myth of Sissyphus? All this tension of life/death, light/dark, pain/joy… is it stretching us to experience and feel our true humanity? Is all of this “technique” a Sisyphean task meant to take us to the point of post-logical numenosity? 
Also, I’d really like to know how Hijikata played with altered states of consciousness and their relationships to Japanese shintoism, shamanism, and authentic movement.



About Kaj-anne Pepper

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