Now this is a really weird way to start, definitely ironic, but my fresh obsession with Japan’s alternative (ankoku = dark) arts and their perpetrators, namely the Ankoku-butoh (Tatsumi Hijikata), Gekiga (Tatsumi Yoshihiro), and Mishima Yukio, began with the Hanami. Well, yes, the cheery celebrations of the cherry blossoms.
In my friend’s blog post on the hanami party he had in Tokyo last week, he reminisced about a German film – Kirschblüten – Hanami – that he watched back home in Cleveland a couple of years ago. Needless to say, I picked up on it (this friend is a major source of good indie music, movies, animation so … ) and watched it yesterday. While many admirable qualities and values were present in this film, the one thing that spellbound me was really the dance of butoh.
In the film, it was presented as a dance with shadows and a desperate attempt to unleash the other persona inside her caged existence (Trudi who never made it to Japan to study butoh, who sacrificed her love of dance for her family, but in the end, the person who completed that dream for her was the very person who stood between Trudi and butoh)
So intrigued I was that I wanted to find out more about it today – been spending the whole morning reading up on butoh, and wondering where and if I could learn it here in Shanghai. Delving deeper into the origins of butoh, I realized its founder was Tatsumi Hijikata. I was pleasantly surprised to find that he shared my birthday of March 9. And 1928 was the year of the Dragon. Talk about signs. Mochiron, we March 9 dragon babies are weird people.
Coincidentally, I read a TODAY report about Eric Khoo‘s new film Tatsumi receiving nods at Cannes. It is based on the life and short stories of gekiga pioneer Tatsumi Yoshihiro who created an alternative to mainstream manga that is more dramatic, dark and realistic in styling and content. That piqued my interest too, and I got hooked on finding out more; after all, this was the second Tatsumi I had encountered in a single day who were pioneers in their respective art forms. How much of a coincidence can it be, I need to read some of his works soon, especially the epic A Drifting Life.
A couple of new Japanese authors (other than Murakami Haruki) are now sitting in my tiny collection of books – Yoshimoto Banana and Mishima Yukio. As my fascination with butoh and Tatsumi Hijikata continued today, I found that his very first butoh performance was an adaptation of Mishima Yukio’s story Kinjiki – the namesake is a euphemism of homosexuality. One thing leads to another and connects in a weird way, everything happens for a reason.
In discovering butoh, I feel like I’ve discovered more than a dance, and that it will be a significant part of me for the years to come, of my life and self yet undiscovered.
“Our whole world is full of movement. Even when we sleep or we are in a clod, or we are corpse-like, our body keeps continuous and vigorous life. The heart is beating, blood is running in veins, cells are dividing, etc. That’s why while living in a body and doing it the whole life, it is totally impossible to be motionless. It is impossible to start and finish a movement, but it is possible to enter into the movement, to exist in it consciously and to leave it. The body is just a border between inner and outside worlds. Inner world includes person’s emotional experiences, philosophical concepts, poetic spirits, fears, dreams etc. Butoh-dancers have learnt to transform all this inner world outpouring into dance. Thus, dance becomes very individual, intimate and frank existence. And it is the personal choice of dancer what to dance: cry, hate, childhood memories, immersing into imagination, one or another fantasies.”