The whole world is a stage, but it's easier to fall asleep in the comfortable theatre seats.

 

I have had the pleasure of photographing some of the older butoh dances, people who were extremely weird even before extremely weird was in style, and let me tell you that a shoot with a sixty year old nude Japanese dancer wrapped only in ceramic foil and crawling on the floor in agony is not your everyday photography work you might get.

 

 

You cant sell news stories that have data and cautious predictions. Where is the panic? Where is the impending doom? C'mon people , give me something to work with here…

    Opinions / Science / Theory of Relative Ignorance  
 

..and as I was a yuppy marketing and advertising executive for the better part
of a decade, I am not really impressed with stories of selling your soul to the devil...

    Art & Culture / Music / Blues / Robert Johnson  
 

Butoh - Japanese dance of darkness

I started shooting butoh in 2007, almost by mistake. What a glorious mistake that was. One of my volunteer models ( I rarely worked with real models. Have enough coat hangers in my closet)  who came to play the role of a nun in one of my art shoots,  invited me to a dance show she was part of, in the Patravadi theatre, the main (and only) serious theatre and performing arts center in Bangkok.

I almost didn’t go, as I was just recovering from dengue fever (oh, the joys of living in the sunshine of the tropics) and was still fading in and out of consciousness due to the illness induced fatigue, but in the end I decided the fresh air and getting out of the house would be beneficial.

I remember sitting there, with still hints of fever and not completely focused (well, less focused then I usually am, if that is any measure of anything…) and was thinking to myself, what funny strange people. They were twisting, they were crawling, they were making elephants out of their bodies, a pretzel out of their souls, and generally looking out of their minds. And I saw. And I thought it was good.

A couple of weeks later, I had the first butoh group in my studio for a shoot, and shaved heads, white covered bodies, and strange physiological movements became a routine part of my art. It was meant to be. A marriage of strangeness.

 

"Western dance begins with its feet firmly planted on the ground whereas butoh begins with a dance wherein the dancer tries in vain to find his feet" - Hijikata

Every year there is an international butoh festival in thailand, organized by terry hatfield, an American expat hiding here from the contagious small minded mediocrity of his native land, bringing together dancers from all over the world to perform in different locations and surroundings and to run workshops for the local dancers and artists.

When I write these lines I look at the prints framed on the walls of my gallery, the remains of the third butoh exhibition (it is a yearly ritual) and at the moment there are photos of dancers from the US, Japan, Malaysia, Brazil, Spain and of course thailand. That is not a bad collection for a small , relatively unknown, zero budgeted, festival.

Sooner then later, I became part of the organization of the festival, and as such became the official photogorapher of the visiting dancers. The first stop in Bangkok, even before going to the obligatory fake brands shopping sprees every guest has to go through, was a shoot in my studio.

Now, most chances are that the majority of you are saying, that is all very nice, and we are happy you are involved in these things, but what ON EARTH is butoh. Good question.

Butoh, the dance of darkness ("Ankoku-Buyou" with the word dance 'buyoh' later changed to an older verb butoh. ) is an expressionistic grotesque introverted ideological art form, inspired by the atomic bombing of japan and the breaking of rules exhibited by such writers as Mishima. Dark, morbid, slow, fascinating…

 
 

The dancer's costume is to wear the universe"

 

Butoh took off in the sixties, making a name for this unique modern variation on Japanese visual and behavioral dance and expression form in the west, mainly in the US and northern Europe, while, strangle enough is almost unknown in japan.

I have had the pleasure of photographing some of the older butoh dances, people who were extremely weird even before extremely weird was in style, and let me tell you that a shoot with a sixty year old nude Japanese dancer wrapped only in ceramic foil and crawling on the floor in agony is not your everyday photography work you might get.

I will write later on about specific groups and dancers I had the pleasure and honor to work with, but for now, will just leave you with this quote from the grandmother of butoh (yes, grandmother. I always thought the fact he was actually male was nothing but a clever distraction…)

A paragraph from butoh dancer Iwana Masaki, whose work shies away from all elements of choreography.

 

I have never heard of a butoh dancer entering a competition. Every butoh performance itself is an ultimate expression; there are not and cannot be second or third places.

If butoh dancers were content with less than the ultimate, they would not be actually dancing butoh, for real butoh, like real life itself, cannot be given rankings."