Kagemi by the Sankai Juku Company (project poster).

Kagemi – Beyond The Metaphors Of Mirror – by the Sankai Juku company.

BUTOH dance avoids the use of mirrors in training. Kasai notes “When you are watching your body in a mirror while dancing, you are not dancing, but you are analyzing the visual stimuli and might be losing the precious/subtle sensations in your body ” . Just like the dancer who intentionally rolls back the eyes, the dancer who watches himself or herself in the mirror diverts attention from alternative resources s/he possess for perceiving the body… the use of mirrors creates an imbalance between an outwardly directed and inwardly directed focus. The mirror seduces the dancer’s focus outside of him/her, leaving the ability to focus inwardly untapped. Watching one’s body in the mirror relies on vision, the sense we tend to exercise most, thereby failing to exercise the dancer’s ability to invoke the perceptual capabilities of other senses, such as the olfactory and auditory capabilities, and especially the tactile.

From the abstract for: Perception in Butoh Dance by Toshiharu Kasai and Kate Parsons (Memoirs of the Hokkaido Institute of Technololy, No.31 2003 pp.257-264).

Every creative rehearsal process aims at finding a balance between the unique ‘appeal’ of the creative act, the possibility to repeat it and recreate it an infinite number of times and to give to the presentation of this act of remembering the quality and presence of the original. As such every dance performance recreates its creation in front of an audience. The movement the dancer makes between his body-memory and his present body is an ‘appeal’ to the spectator to do the same, that is by viewing or sensing the present-a(c)tion, to remember its past, its origin, its meaning.

What is true for the individual dancer, spectator or performance, is also true for the history of dance (or any other art form) which reads as a movement between a ‘a body of memories’ – a tradition and the re-actualisation of this body in the con-temporary, that is ‘being with the time’, ‘being present’.


Yuko Kaseki and Minako Seki in DORODORO Quarks:

Kaoruo Kumura in Shadow Flower:

Imre Thormann at Hiyoshi Taisha Shrine in Shiga (Japan)

This excerpt, from an interview with Kudo Taketeru, also helps explain this piece from Sankai Juku in Paris (which I am unable to embed in this post).

“For didactic purposes, the creative process is arbitrarily and schematically divided in three steps :
1. Production of material and definition of a vocabulary;
2. variation techniques and the ‘local’ construction process;
3. choices, organisation and ‘global’ composition strategies.”
(Thierry De Mey, Tools for Movement composition, notes 2006)

The two latter text excerpts were written by Guy Cools (Dramaturge, Montréal, April 2006) after participating in Akram Khan’s Kathak inspired workshops.


Also See:

Additional imagery and video in Butoh – Dance of Darkness at La Ivolution.

Butoh – Revolt of the Flesh in Japan and a Surrealist Way to Move by Johannes Bergmark. First published in and written for Mannen på gatan, Stockholm 1991. With an introduction from 2008 and an appendix from 1993.

Fraleigh, Sondra Horton. Butoh : Metamorphic Dance and Global Alchemy. Urbana : University of Illinois Press, 2010.

Moore, Shannon C. Ghosts of Premodernity: Butoh and the Avant-Garde Performance Paradigm 2 (March 2006): 45.

Osinski, Zbigniew. “Grotowski blazes the trails : From objective drama to ritual arts” The Drama Review 35 / 1 Spring (1991): 95-112.

Zarrilli, Phillip B. “Psychophysical Approaches and Practices in India: Embodying Processes and States of ‘Being–Doing’” New Theatre Quarterly / Volume 27 / Issue 03 (August 2011): 244 ­ 271. Published online: 03 August 2011.


2 thoughts on “Beautiful Ugliness

  1. good stuff; like dancing in the dark; you like their usage of systems; systems overlay everything, without it art becomes elevator music for those waiting to be lifted.

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