Recently, The Alliance Francaise du Bengale, Subbody Butoh School, "Katha' Koli" & The Arshinagar Project organized "Resonating" with Kali & The Sick Dancing Princess - a performance by a group of contemporary Butoh artists from Subbody Butoh School & Janardan Ghosh. In their collaborative work they seek to weave around the legend of 'Kali', an adaptation of "Sick Dancing Princess: through 'Butoh' movement, soundscapes, verses and readings. The Butoh performers are Izabela Wazsek and Jiyo and Honza Svasek. The jazz and sound is done by Andrew Kay, flute and voice art is by Pradip Chatterjee, live art
by Viola, story-telling by Janardan Ghosh and chants by Vidyapati.
Abhijit Ganguly spoke to Honza and Sati (Gio) on the sidelines of the event.
With Honza Svasek:
AG: How would you explain Butoh to someone who is hearing it for the first time?
HS: Butoh is a shamanic performance art form. It originated in Japan in the 60s as a rebellion against traditional Japanese theater/dance. It was developed by Hijikata and Ohno.
AG: You are a Networking specialist. How did you get interested in Butoh? What was it that intrigued you?
HS: In 2007 I found Butoh by accident. I was living in an artist community in Rotterdam and one of my colleagues asked me to participate in a Butoh piece. The shamanic aspect interested me and I decided to research the subject. In 2011 I spent six months at the
Subbody Butoh School in Dharamsala. After that it became a lifestyle.
AG: Is Butoh a special message that is enjoyed by only a few people?
HS: Butoh performers drop the human condition and cultural programming and work with the body and ours feelings, cell memory. We try to dance the whole of existence, so we research and contact our dark side (the shadow, the darkness of the body). Also, I guess this is not for everybody. Quite some of the current Butoh teachers dropped this darkness and teach ‘White Butoh’, ‘The Butoh of Life, etc.
AG: What kind of training does one have to undergo to absorb the essence of this form?
HS: A workshop can give some basics and plant some seeds, but to become a professional Butoh performer needs time. There are however very few places where you can study and practice for a longer period, one of them being in Dharamsala.
AG: What is a frequently misunderstood facet of Butoh?
HS: The most difficult part of the practice is to get and stay in a state of alternate consciousness, so spirit can take over and dance the body. Dropping the ego and daily mind is necessary but it takes a lot of practice and time before you are really there.
AG: How was your experience here in Kolkata?
HS: Kolkata was for me one of the most pleasant cities in India. Somehow the people are quite open, happy and free compared to Delhi, Bangalore, Mumbai and Pune.
Honza studied Butoh with famous Butoh masters: Itto Morita, Atsushi Takenouchi , Ken May, Yumiko Yoshioka, Yuko Ota, Imre Thormann, Iwana Masaki , Rhizome Lee, Yuk io Waguri and Natsu Nakajima.
With Sati (Gio)
AG: What attracted you to delve deep into Butoh?
SG: Just life had guided me. I was looking for a chance to dance in different way, not contemporary. But I didn't know about Butoh before. I was traveling in India, stayed quite long at Dharamshala. Just before leaving the city, I went to a Butoh festival organized by Subbody Butoh foundation; where I belong to now. I joined half-day workshop and immediately fell in love with this mysterious dance form. Actually it has no form but also infinite form. At the beginning also I felt deep connection with H.H Dalai Lama's teaching which was about life connection from past to present life, in my understanding. It is still
difficult to get his teaching with my actual life. Anyway I was always curious about the invisible life connection with strangers who I never met before, but somehow made me feel in deep connection beyond nationality, sexuality and any form of existence.
SG: With Butoh exploring I got some clues. It's RESONANCE and TRANSFORMATION from being to being. I dance the life resonance and transformation beyond human concept, idea and thoughts. So we enter into different realm from daily thinking mode to subconscious mode with different awareness, we call this awareness, ‘transparent eyes’. It is not easy to explain all this through language but there is something invisible which makes me alive and connected to a hidden, abandoned self, or being from modern society. It is also connected to
my background, which is familiar with sprit or shamanism in Korea and Japan. India also has this spiritual beauty. I have felt deeply while in India that our Butoh tour was resonating with the local culture, artists, and stories.
SG: What attracted me into Butoh? Just I fell in love with it without knowing any reasons. Feeling it connected me to other or past lives. Embracing all my hidden shadows, which are not really dark or bad just forgotten by modern society. I see a different balance in between
darkness and brightness. There is no wrong or right, no good or bad and no beauty or ugliness. It is just very organic and alive resonance, life to life.
AG: It seems Butoh eludes definition - it’s not quite a style or practice of improvisational dance, but it’s more than just a state of mind. How do you define Butoh?
SG: I haven't been able to define it. I probably never will. Actually one of my favorite Butoh masters feels he is still exploring about what is Butoh. I totally respect that. If there is concrete concept of Butoh, for me it’s not Butoh anymore. I believe that our souls want to
come and go spontaneously, but social human concept, everyday life does not allow for this freedom. Butoh is revolution, guiding beyond concept and ego. Butoh is the expansion or depth behind everyday life. We see ourselves through a mirror which is reflective of the images which are seen from outside, by others. Butoh is behind the mirror. Also generally, we think we move, do, act with own will, but actually our life is moved by something or someone. All circumstances from inside as well as outside of our selves make up the phenomenon of
experience. Being moved, created by resonance, this is Butoh for me, for now. Everything is changeable. I'm the new generation of Butoh. I'm exploring toward more openness, vulnerability, and acceptance. Especially in Subbody Butoh there is no border between body and mind. Subbody means sub conscious body and subtle body. With various conditioning techniques we enter into subbody. Here, body and mind is oneness, so a ‘state of mind’ does not exist. Butoh is improvisation by soul or unknown life forces. We are developing a very unique way of dance improvisation. To resonate with each cell of body, we develop
slowness, lots of body controllability. There are specific ways to train and to have resonance with hidden bodies, such as, weakness, disability and sickness.
AG: How do you see the influence of Butoh on contemporary dance?
SG: For me in contemporary dance or art, there are huge and deep roots of judgment, in particular the concept of beauty and duality. I see some clear directions in contemporary (dance), whatever they head to. Butoh is multi dimensional and breaks all borders. I see the lack of space for our souls. I see limited space for the darkness or unknown world. If there is limit of darkness, it means the limit of brightness, too. For me, darkness is not just black, it's unknown, the depth of abyss. Also black darkness is so beautiful, normal society pushes us to hide it but there it beauty there. We embrace the shadow to be life itself, recovering pure life as oneness. Once I joined a contemporary dance class and I shared Butoh attributes with them, the way of Butoh movements and their resonance. After class the other participants said, they felt as sense of the organic and something pure and ecstatic, encountering their own dance from their own life, which nobody else can imitate. Butoh emerged against modern western dance, like the salmon moves against the flow of the river.
AG: There are very few schools in the world and there is no traditional or set way to learn Butoh. What are your views regarding this?
SG: I don't know if the word 'traditional' is proper with Butoh or not, because Butoh is revolution itself, beyond all borders. Even some masters who were students of Butoh founder, Hijikata, guide Butoh to different ways. One time when I joined a Yumiko Yoshioka workshop in Germany, it was only for 10 days, which is common for Butoh workshops,
maximum 3 weeks, I felt it was too short a time to integrate through my body and life. I asked if I could continue to learn more. I felt desperate. I was lucky because I was able to join her production for several weeks and I saw growth within myself. That's why many people visit this Subbody Butoh school. There are very few chances to learn Butoh over a long term any where in the world. I have been 5 years with this school. After finishing a 2-year course, I asked myself, "Are you ready to leave?” "Definitely, not!" And so I continued (Butoh) school during every summer either in Europe or Canada, exploring to get different flows of Butoh. Each master has a different approach and I appreciate these diverse gateways very much.
I think this is the essence Butoh.
AG: How was your experience in Kolkata?
SG: It was a very unexpected experience, like Butoh. If Butoh satisfies the audience's expectation, it's not Butoh. With my first step in Kolkata, I felt the unknown beauty within this city, the air, the people etc., and a beautiful co-existence between old and new. Most of all, the local artists were amazing, musicians, actors, dancers, all widely open, flexible, with full power and a very centered energy. Incredible resonance! Feeling so comfortable with them. Audiences are very open and ready to embrace a new art, Butoh. Especially here in Kali I have found this open exploration is ongoing. I feel a deep connection and something essential with my own life history here, something in-between destroying and protecting or
creating. The time has not been long enough to explore Kali’s Butoh potential. Already I'm thinking of coming back to Kolkata, organizing a longer Butoh project and a new collaboration with local artists. I would say, I'm already sensing that I will miss Kolkata from my all cells, more so than I can express. Cells that resonate with the time and space: sending warm deep life resonance, breath of life.
Sati is a facilitator of Resonant Subbody Butoh. A student of Rhizome Lee, she has worked collaborating with Ten Pen Chii (Germany with Yumiko Yoshioka), 14th Bak tun (Canada with Gessuri Gaitan).
-This interview was conducted by Abhijit Ganguly and edited in collaboration with Alison Barrows-Young. All rights to this interview transcript are reserved by Abhijit Ganguly.