By Sondra Fraleigh
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Additional resources for Butoh: Metamorphic Dance and Global Alchemy
25 The Judson dance movement in America provides a contrasting example of the postmodern as based on pedestrian movement and tasks. Butoh, more than postmodern dance in America, thrives on an overabundance of images and at the same time harks back to some of the first examples of appropriation in 1917–18 when the Berlin Dada artists began to make their surreal montages. Collage is not a marker of the American postmodern dance, but it does identify butoh—as from the beginning Hijikata based his choreography on his creative butoh-fu collages, selecting fragments and fusing them together, then sending them through the alchemical fire of his performances.
Hijikata and Ohno also took different attitudes toward the West. Hijikata was more directly critical of modernism as it derived from mainstream Western ideas of material progress. And he wasn’t alone in this view in Japan. His original butoh grew as part of the underground art scene in Tokyo, taking on aspects of Obsessional Art, an aesthetic expression in the 1960s that rebelled against the modernist movement sweeping Japan after the war. Ohno was friendly to the West but sometimes critical of Western dance and its objective orientation.
Its somatic means are many, and its present-day seekers don’t imitate past butoh. They take seriously the advice of Hijikata and Ohno that butoh is a discovery of the heart, as Yael Gaathon, an Israeli dancer, teaches in her butoh workshops. Ohno Yoshito continues to practice what his father teaches: that butoh comes from within and can be transferred from one person to another in the universal language of the heart. “Butoh doesn’t have to be Japanese,” Ohno would say in his teaching. We feel pain, we can love; these are fundamental and universal.