Hijikata’s Words

Words and language were at the heart of Tatsumi Hijikata’s Butoh. He was inspired by literature, wrote about butoh, talked about it, and choreographed his dancers with verbal imagery.

His words illuminate many of the mysteries behind Butoh. Here are some of them.

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“Western dance begins with its feet firmly planted on the ground whereas butoh begins with a dance wherein the dancer tries in vain to find his feet. What has happened to the tucked-in feet?

What has become of our bodies?”

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TatsumiHijikata5

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“I’m convinced that a pre-made dance, a dance made to be shown is of no interest. The dance should be caressed and fondled; here I’m not talking about a humorous dance but rather an absurd dance. It must be absurd. It is a mirror which thaws fear. The dancer should dance in this spirit.

“In other forms of dance, such as flamenco or classical dance. the movements are derived from a fixed technique; they are imposed from the outside and are conventional in form. In my case, it’s the contrary, my dance is far removed from conventions and techniques … it is the unveiling of the inner life.”

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“When one considers the body in relation to dance, it is then that one truly realizes what suffering is: it is a part of our lives. No matter how much we search for it from the outside there is no way we can find it without delving into ourselvers.
TatsumiHijikata3
“We are broken from birth. We are only corpses standing in the shadow of life. Therefore what is the point of becoming a professional dancer? If a man becomes a laborer and a woman a servant, isn’t that enough in itself?

“That is the essense of butoh – and that is how I lead my communal life.

“We should live in the present. We should do what we have to do now and not keep putting it on the long finger as the majority of adults do. That is why they exhaust themseves. For children, there is only the present. They are not afraid. Fear envelops us in a fine mesh. We must remove this mesh.

“We should be afraid! The reason that we suffer from anxiety is that we are unable to live with our fear. Anxiety is something created by adults. The dancer, through the butoh spirit, confronts the origins of his fears: a dance which crawls towards the bowel of the earth. I do not believe this is possible with European dance.”

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“Butoh plays with time, it also plays with perspective, if we, humans, learn to see things from the perspective of an animal, an insect, or even inanimate objects. The road trodden everyday is alive … we should value everything.”

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“Butoh is a corpse standing straight up in a desperate bid for life.”

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TatsumiHijikata4

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“Again and again we are reborn. It is not enough simply to be born of the mother’s womb. Many births are necessary. Be reborn always and everywhere. Again and again.”

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“I keep one of my sisters alive in my body when I am creating a butoh piece, she tears off the darkness in my body and eats more than is necessary of it — when she stand up I sit down compulsively.”

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“When I begin to wish I were crippled –even though I am perfectly healthy — or rather that I would have been better off born a cripple, that is the first step towards butoh.”

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“Even your own arms, deep inside your body feel foriegn to you, feel that they do not belong to you. Here lies an important secret. Butoh’s radical essence is hidden here.”

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“(A carrot revealed to me a crucial shortcoming in my Butoh.) Is what we – human beings not carrots – call memory, really memory? What is memory if not the sum of all those things that have been eaten, erased, eliminated – in a word, all that has ceased to exist? And is not the world made so as to attend to that sum? My views have broadened my thinking in this way. I have no idea on what yardstick our memory was first based. But if we would only annihilate this “memory,” then an infinite world would come about where Butoh could find its proper place. Unless we deal with such problems we will only end up worrying about this straitened world – and thus, putting a lock on the door to the universe.”

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