2017: Year of Butoh Research
If I could nail down one theme of the year, it would certainly be one of butoh research and insight. It was the year that began my journey with butoh academics and practical body-based research.
2017 began in a state of failure, having been fired from an x-ray job off a north suburb of Chicago (North Chicago). I lasted only 4 days. I wanted to begin the year with something different, since I had decent savings from my off and on x-ray jobs in Chicago 2016.
The path that resonated with me was Mexico, which I had recently visited at the end of November for a Ken Mai workshop. Mexico left me with such a good impression, that I had to return.
Back in Mexico City, I went out of my way to take butoh class, and for the majority of my Mexico stay (of 3 months), I was taking at least 3 classes of butoh a week. Some of these were of Body Weather, a butoh branch-off originally formed from Min Tanaka. I also gave a series of 9 free butoh classes at a public park outside theater.
I remember really enjoying the goth club on the weekends, El Real Under. Once goth, always goth they say. My teenage years and on were inundated with goth subculture (as well as extreme metal) and it all never really left me. I can even say that butoh is merely my extension to this rebel underground vibe which has always resonated with me. Mexico by proxy has this underground feel. To me, it thrives on never really having a dull moment. Mexico is a vibrant art culture of depth, talent, and pleasure, using limits to assure that it’s alive. It’s a culture with a friendly and fascinating relationship to death.
After Mexico, I began a short tour, which began in NYC. My 3 week stay in NYC and Jersey City was mostly for leisure and to spend time with a good friends. It was also my first time in NYC, so I wanted to explore the city once and for all.
Rita, who was traveling with me, collaborated with me on a performance at a Brooklyn performance bar called Bizarre Bushwick. Friend I was staying with also collaborated on the piece by doing the music, a bit of noise and power electronics, which worked incredibly well. I remember the basement of the venue with explicit BDSM photographs as it’s sometimes supposedly used a dungeon for the fetish crowd. Curiously, our performance seemed to have shocked some, despite the name and reputation of the venue.
We also got to visit Alex Grey’s museum, thanks to another body researcher friend Andrew Kushner.
After NYC, I set off to Ukraine, my first European workshop series hosted by Dmitry Datskov which took place in Odessa. It was a 5 day workshop, and with quite a number of students (on average about 20). I was taken by everyone’s determination and intrigue in the art form. It’s somewhere I for sure want to return to. I even had thoughts of possibly living there one day, and even learning Russian.
We ended the workshop with a performance called May 2nd, which was about a tragedy that happened 3 years before. We did it right on May 2nd too. It was great to choreograph within such a short time such a large group. I enjoyed it and would love to do something like this again.
I had such a good there, I was actually a bit sad to leave, but the journey had to go on. Next 5 day workshop was Athens, hosted by Marianna Tsagaraki. I’ve been to Greece once before, 2 years ago, but only Santorini Island. This was my first time in Athens. The workshop participants were just as enthusiastic.
Like in Ukraine, we ended the workshop with a performance, but this time it was a butoh duet with Marianna. I’ve worked with several people before and Marianna is easy to collaborate with, and would certainly enjoy doing so again.
The final European stop was Belgrade, Serbia for a 3 day workshop hosted by Marco Nektan. Like the two others before, it ended with not one but two performances. One of the performances happened at a cafe bar, and the audience was instructed to make sound with chairs or whatever they had in order to provoke my butoh. It was the first time I did something like this and it worked out quite well. Marco, like the other hosts, are serious butoh people. There is bound to be future work.
It was now toward the end of May, and my next destination was my return to India. I was there before, which started this whole butoh lifestyle to begin with, in 2013 and 2014. I was there to participate in the International Himalayan Butoh Festival at the Subbody Butoh School. The festivals show the final performances of the semester, in this case, the Spring term. It was there that Rita and I corresponded again and we performed again our Flower & The Abyss piece.
The idea for returning to India was to dive deep into butoh research, and that is what happened. Summer semester began and Rhizome Lee was out on tour in Europe, so I stayed as a midwife/educator for the summer semester. It was often a low turnout because of monsoon season, but we used our time wisely.
During this time is also when I began writing my butoh manual, which is online free here. This was a long process of research and writing, but Mcleodganj was the perfect place for this type of thing. The mountains and general atmosphere inspire. By the time Lee returned to Mcleodganj to begin the Fall semester, I had already written the bulk of the manual, though it is perpetually updated.
During my stay in India, twice I had to renew my visa by a Nepal visit, though my heart was not in further travel. I honestly for once saw that Mcleodganj was a home to me, and I did not feel like leaving home during those times. For Fall, it was a mixture of taking class from the fall semester and doing my own research. The Subbody school is a space that provokes a lot of energies and epiphanies. I learned so much when I was first there, and I learned much when I returned, and I know that the same will happen when I return yet again.
By the time late November came along, it was time to leave to Israel, to join a Subbody alumni (Honza Svasek), for a 3 week desert retreat, of which one was a 5 day butoh workshop which we guided. Rita joined as well. I already wrote an entry about this visit, so I will just say that I got many first times there: desert camping, professional singing lessons, accepting more leisure and non-doing. There were some incredibly wise people at this camp with very interesting attitudes towards life.
By the time the desert experience ended, it was the 24th of December. I spent Christmas in Spain with Rita. This is where I am at now on a small mountain just outside of Madrid. Here is a time of reflection and putting all the year together. There’s still time before I return to the USA (on the 12th of January), so there’s some cinemas, museums, and spots to hit I’m sure, but I don’t mind spending the bulk of the time reading and writing.
I never spent a whole year without engaging in my safety net profession (that of x-ray). It was because I was able to save a little in 2017, but also because I had support from so many people. Though it has been tricky at times, I feel that generally, the world has been on my side with this passion of mine.
2018 will continue my butoh lifestyle though I’m sure it will be different. I don’t know exactly the route, but Mexico is on the horizon again, and I know I want to be working more with plant teachers this time. There is also an ambitious butoh project I will be working on likely with Honza Svasek, but for now it is a secret. You’ll see what it is. It won’t be about me, but more about those of you in the magnificent butoh world.