(University of Oxford)
Paper Short Abstract:
Butoh dancers turn their bodies into forms other than the human, with their movements providing the main vehicle for the transformation. This contribution explores butoh's metamorphic movement, by focusing on an exercise which entails 'becoming a caterpillar'.
Paper long abstract:
This video-paper explores the phenomenology of 'becoming a caterpillar' through butoh dance, a dance style which emerged in postwar Japan but which is now considered transnational. Butoh's most distinctive trait is its being based on 'metamorphosis', by which dancers turn their bodies into forms other than the human. That is, by means of their bodies, butoh dancers transgress corporeal boundaries of being human into, for instance, animal, vegetal and elemental beings, with movement providing the main vehicle for the transformation.
This contribution explores butoh dance's trademark of metamorphic movement, focusing on a particular training exercise in which practitioners attempt to 'become caterpillars'. Based on evidence gathered at a workshop with the Japanese butoh company Sankaijuku, this video-paper illustrates the process of 'metamorphosis' as mediated by a reconfiguring of the practitioner's kinetic structures.
Although based on the researcher's first person perspective, as consistent with a phenomenological approach, this paper transcends the single point of view by arguing that 'becoming animal' or, as in this case, 'insect', through butoh, provides the ground for perspectival shifts that are imagined as well as material.
Moving from the empirical towards the general of an anthropology with art (cf. Tim Ingold), the discussion leads to a reflection on the potential significance of butoh as an anthropological research method. This way of moving, it is contended, can provide the basis for a non-verbal approach to observation and expression, which can help social scientists who are also movers to better relate to the world beyond the human
Dancing goose: moving with and moving like animals