Overnight Butoh Marathon in Calabacino, Spain

July 17, 2022

Here I write about my experience of the butoh marathon night which recently happened while at a butoh camp in Calabacino, Spain guided by Coco Villarreal and I from 10 AM to 1 PM.

The inspiration for this event/ritual came out of the 12-hour non-stop (no breaks, everything was performative) butoh marathon we took part in at Tiyatro Medresesi in Turkey this past winter also with Coco and with two other butoh guides. Coco and I wished to experiment further, and so decided to do an overnight version. Though this took 13 hours, we could deduct 3 hours of activity since this is about the length of time everyone collectively took a nap.

On the full moon of the 14th of July beginning 12 AM, butoh guide Coco Villarreal and I began an immersive overnight butoh process with a few other participants at Coco’s heavy nature residence in Calabacino, Spain.

We had eaten a late pasta dinner, and the event was to begin as soon as the dinner finished though it had already begun with Coco, already in character, playing his Didgeridoo and engaging his voice along with his friend who played the hang drum. Everyone already had their own special dress ready to begin.

The space we had fixed up outside was levelled dry grass and weeds, much of which was still a little prickly yet not impossible to dance on. The state of the field actually added to the effect and seemed appropriate as a limit to provoke unique creation. At one point during the night even, I undressed down to my briefs and made it a point to feel the field texture with my entire body like perhaps a wolf would under such a majestic moon.

That moon was the only light that lit the field. Much like the tradition of ecstatic dance and most butoh jams I have been to, there was a conscious effort to not talk during the whole event which really kept the event in its liminal, enigmatic realm.

Throughout the night, we witnessed various solos, dances at the moon, dances moved by the moon, and spontaneous rituals such as the spiral rope that was slowly walked till one reached the center composed of a candle and a framed photograph of Tatsumi Hijikata.

The energetic level of the event was more subtle than that of Turkey’s marathon. Movements were smaller and slower.

After a few hours outside, eventually everyone made their way inside the unlit small studio attached to the house. A group dance began there till around the 6 AM mark when everyone gradually faded into a long 3 hour nap. We all found our sleeping space yet also appeared like a family of kittens napping together on the floor.

Later, some mentioned they were throughout those 3 hours going in and out of wakefulness, but everyone remained in the same position.

By 9 AM like a gradual and graceful outgrowth of weeds, the butoh resumed with a distinctly different energy than before the long nap. A string installation with 3 bamboo sticks was set up. Everyone danced their own resonance in and around this installation. The mood was playful, and for me, it was a mishmash of meditation and play, two seemingly antithetical phenomena which need not be. I will call it mediplay which can be a subject of further exploration.

What made this butoh marathon different than Turkey’s was that we weren’t chiming in to actually occasionally guide exercises. Any subtle guiding (such as the construction of the spiral rope or string installation) was executed without words and without trying to draw too much attention.

Overall, I feel we are still only at the beginning of our research regarding these butoh marathon experiments. Coco and I already talking about making the next one longer even, something like 18 hours, but emphasizing no naps. In Turkey, nobody fell asleep though daylight does make it easier in this case.

We will try our extended marathon on the last week of the October butoh program (Flower of Death) at Tiyatro Medresesi in Sirince, Turkey. Come and explore with us.