Friday, October 2, 2009

Mystery of Mysteries

My writing on dance has gone through many different stages since I was a wee teenager- I think it started in the emotional poetry phase, then in college began the aspiring arts newspaper critic phase, post-college was the dance ethnographer phase, and then I by and large quit about two years ago, the beginning of the current I-don`t-know-anything-it`s-time-to-try-it phase.

Resulting in sentences such as the previous "shinto stages are rad" gem.

My school`s computer somehow does not block blogger. So, I will try to oil up these rusty typing fingers.

Kiraza performed in Sakira`s obake yashiki again this year. When Ima-san is directing a dance, she considers each dancer, their background and ascetic, and what gets them engaged. I feel that the dances are becoming more westernized as people from different countries come to the studio. At first it was a little shock, because I was used to being serious in rehearsal and workshop; then I realized that the key to dance is play, and mixing the different people and cultures makes the class very exciting and playful. For example, this year`s finale for obake yashiki was Michael Jackson`s Thriller. Now, whenever a new person and new energy come to the studio, I feel like that person lends their singular to spirit to the exercises we are used to doing every week. Come different peoples of the world! I still think that the Japanese culture and language are very informative and integral to this work though- luckily we have a very sensitive group of international people`s with some Japanese ability and desire to learn.

August was summer vacation. I went to the Dairakudakan Gashuku in Hakuba, Nagano from August 1st until the morning of August 9th. It was a very large group of different nationalities, ages, careers, and etc. The majority were probably Japanese women in the their twenties who are involved with the arts in some way. Most were beginners to Butoh, I`d say. It was like summer camp, in that there was a daily schedule - wake up at 6:30 am, breakfast at 7 am, morning running and practice until 12, lunch, afternoon practice from about 1:30 - 5:30pm (rough estimate), dinner, and an evening lecture. The morning and afternoon practice was with the senior dairakudakan company members, and they were attended by junior and regular company members, who would help out and give each person individual attention. The evening lectures were with Maro-san, and were mostly listening, but later we tried to move a few minutes based solely on his verbal instruction, not copying any form. The morning and afternoon classes were almost the opposite- copying a form, and then trying to attach a philosophy or a logical reason to it. For example, "Do tako like this," and then after we try it for a while "and feel the water moving your arms in a figure eight pattern." Towards the end of the workshop, we focussed on learning, remembering, and perfecting the movements and formations for the Kinpun Kafkas dance we performed on an outdoor stage.

The beginning of the workshop was a great introduction to the body basics of butoh, from the noguchi taiso idea of the body as a sack of water, to this water spilling and moving the body. Also, the idea of the body hanging from or being pulled by strings, resulting in movement. It felt completely different and new, even though I do these same exercises with Ima-san, and in two workshops with Muroboshi Ko. But it is something to be felt very sensitively, so each time it is totally new, or there is a new nuance of it that is discovered. After a full day of this and some yummy meals cooked by fellow classmates, we listened to Maro-san cover his dance philosophies - why do humans dance, what is dance, how does he make dance. It is exactly as interesting as it sounds. (very interesting).

Towards the end of the workshop, I had a little trouble focussing, because we stopped learning new things about the body and butoh and focussed instead on choreography for the show. I like all of these movments, but it got a little redundant. I encountered a challenge, though, that taught me a way to use my body - after the large first section of dance, I did a lift with a male partner. The beginning was exhausting, but I had to make sure that my breathing was deep and I was relaxed and not tense in order to do the lift right. If I wasn`t, it would be hard for my partner, and maybe I would fall or get hurt at the very worst. Through this, I really felt my breath pushing towards the earth and the way of bending the knees so that weight is released through the ground. And the times when to let energy fly out and when to keep it in. And then I was spun in the air covered in golden oil and lying on my side on a man`s shoulders outside in the pouring rain at night with lights shining on me and old women taking my picture and smiling. The hard work of learning choreography and doing the movement I was told to do when I was told to was all worth it for that one moment.

After this I went to Tokyo and took class with Yoshito Ohno. Dairakudakan was all about form, whereas Ohno is pure soul and feeling. I mentioned that I just came from Maro-san`s workshop, and Ohno-san said ”まろさん。 彼は何をやっているかわからない。彼は自分が何をやっているかわからない。” or something like that. Ohno`s class is he tells a little story, gives a related suggestion, turns on the music, and you go. I felt a little funny first, like it was emotional movement and I would look silly the way that self-gratifying dance that "feels good" is sometimes too inward and communicates nothing. But then I kept listening and moveing, and I could see the beauty in his words and movements. And I started to see the value in earnestly trying to follow his verbal suggestion. "Roses are blooming from my fingertips, I am going to my limits, ahh." He stopped us, and said "You are performing in a theatre in front of a tough audience of the best dancers - they are so flexible and strong, they can do every movement, they`ve seen every movement. And you have to dance for them. You have to dance in a way so that they see you and understand `ah, this is his limit.`" I tried. I couldn`t move. Something inside of me was endeavoring to move, however, and resulted in tears running from my eyes.

I came back to Kyoto and did a performance with some Bliki Circus members in ZEST shopping mall. My dancing was different. A part of me felt more free, more into the dancing as a result of Maro-san`s lecture and Ohno`s words. A part of me felt like I merely imitated some of the good dancing I had just seen. Well.

Natsuon summer festival, Takarazuka tunnel event, and an Urbanguild kinpun show later and I am sitting at school. Work can drag on and on, as I wake up at 5:30 am, leave school at 5:30pm, go to some plan after school (usually dance related), get home at 11pm or 12am, and then do it again the next day. I have figured out where and at what time it is relatively safe to sleep at school. I want to keep learning dance and talking to people.

Today I visited the brass band club and made them laugh by doing kamome.

More should be mentioned, especially the all-so important details of what Ohno and Maro said. However, my notes are not on me. Lately I am reading Mikami-sensei`s phd about Hijikata. Very very interesting. A very well-written and informative thesis/ book. It is a treat.

Put these all together and what do you get... butoh, i suppose. Can anyone in the newer generations invent verbal imagery, philosophy, and works of a similar magnitude as these dancers? I haven`t seen that much out there, I suppose. But for dance to stay alive, it seems like the dancer/choreographer has to unconsciously change what they are given - do it their way, imbue it with their life and spirit. Or it becomes a copy of a copy of a copy. I suppose that`s stylish and postmodern, however... I want to see who else is out there.

Next is a performance this Sunday at Takatsuki`s shiroato park. I want to think up severe verbal imagery and a traveler character, and use the base body that I learned from Ima-san and have been reading about in the Hijikata thesis.

No comments: