“The Church says: the body is a sin. Science says: the body is a machine. Advertising says: The body is a business.
The Body says: I am a fiesta.”
~ Eduardo Galeano
For a second year I found myself in Vangelie’s three day Butoh workshop deep in shadows, lost in my own subconscious images of dreams, desires, and private terrors. Almost 20 of us gathered to plunge into our capacity for patience and to feed our curiosities. Even in the middle of so many odd sensations, uncomfortable thoughts and bizzare moments I am amazed at how many of us show up to dance for 4 hours straight and to dare to reach into our lost and hidden selves.
To Vangeline, the practice of butoh is the practice of travel. We use repetitive and and powerful techniques of breath and energetic compression to peel back the layers between psychic realms. To vangeline, dance is a vessel and a pathway and a journey. Each time I revisit Butoh, I remember why I move and once again my self-judgement, and technical limitation mind traps all fall away. I find honesty for a moment, and I remember I am a dancer because I dance and not because I belong to one technique/school of thought or another. That moving is authentic and essetial to me and many others, and this is why dance is one of four corners to build the foundation of life upon; dance, song, stories, and silence. Butoh is each of these.
Vangeline’s message as a teacher is a powerful one: Strip away all of the fluff, the meaningless movement, the decorations. Stop using movement to avoid yourself and sensation. Stop tryoing to feel only what is pleasant or tolerable. Stop denying our humanity, and stop denying yourself compassion in that face of struggle. "We don’t care about ourselves in a loving way and it ends up projected onto everyone around us," she says. "We struggle with others because we struggle with ourselves."
Butoh is a peek into our darkness and our light and we need each other to brave that journey. Dance is about community in its roots. Every person that manifests around this work is a gift to our own process. Each student brings the gift of themselves, their vulnerability, and their humanness. This point of view is such a different paradigm, and not just from the dance world, and ballet classes. In the Butoh process you meditate through emptiness, find peace and stillness on top of great discomfort and pain, and boldly expose your most vulnerable and hidden aspects and secrets. Butoh is human. This work is necessary in such a superficial time.
Each time butoh comes back through my life it strikes me that art is depth, vulnerability, and an honest offering of our humanity. It takes more than technique and virtuoso to change ourselves and each other. Art is about reaching out with our own fragile life to speak to the humanity in others. To make art is to break open and stand in all of your mistakes, your magic, and your honesty. Performance art is to offer all of that and not hold any of it back out of shame. It’s simple truth in every shade of our capacity to love, destroy, and heal.
I am but a world, some flesh and bones to keep it in.