A MONTHLY FEUILLETON (PART 7: APRIL)
By Agnieszka Ryszkiewicz
“If dance is about pleasure then I do not agree.”
Imagine that your mother had been knifed in front of your eyes when you were one year old. Imagine you saw the edge piercing her maroon cardigan that rapidly gained an intense deep color until the material drank all blood and became totally moistened and heavy. Her eyes wide open and the tongue out, twisted and clutched between her teeth.
Now, you have to know that memories are being stored in our brains from around the age of three. Therefore, you wouldn’t remember that horrific event. But, and there always is a “but” in this kind of stories, those earliest memories infiltrate our bodies. They apparently enter in our cells, run through our veins and become builders of our skeleton.
After this fascinating introduction, Akira Kasai invited us on a trip into discovering and revealing our deeply imprinted early memories through choreography.
The self claimed father of Butoh – Akira Kasai aka Kasai San – is invited to spend a month with 9 Essayists and 3 extra guests at the CNDC in Angers (where I live and discover all the terrifying secrets hidden within my body and mind). If I recall well, Akira San invented the word from the combination of BU (no way that I write it in Japanese though), derived from BUYO which means “dance” with an inclination for horizontal movement and comes from No theatre, with TO (this, too, is my poor transcription of the sign) which was a specific Kabuki step, a tread connected with the notion of horizontality. The story goes that he suggested the word to Tatsumi Hijikata, who found it most relevant and was pleased to continue using it for his own work.
On the third day of the heavy physical training Kasai San calls stretching, we sit in a circle all afternoon and are given a speech about space in contemporary times. I have already gotten acquainted with his rich way of speaking, but B. seems to have some problems. “It’s not like he speaks Japanese to us”, I try to cheer her up. The truth is, even with this incredible translator – Mathew – I also struggle to follow his multi-leveled, florid discourse.
Jumping from the Greek Pantheon, through Odin his suite and Buddha, resuming Einstein’s theory of relativity and comparing it to the situation inside the mother’s belly, Kasai San explains that space is a weak reference point in everyday life. Contrary to the stage, where space is the major factor, besides time, that allows the dancer to be aware of his/her movement. I admit that these holistic viewpoints torment me a bit, but as I write everything down I hope re-reading my notes will elucidate some doubts.
Like this thing with the senses. Coming from an ex-USSR country I believe that freedom comes with individuality. This is why I chose art, and dance in particular, to confirm and affirm in every movement my individuality. And yesterday we were working on sensations. Well, let me explain by way of an example – it will get much clearer then as unfortunately you cannot see me moving. Which is a pity, because I assume I look beautiful even in Butoh repertoire, if one can say so.
We do four steps.
We keep the sensation of stopping.
We do four more steps with the sensation of stoping inside our bodies and minds.
We release/erase this sensation.
We do four steps back.
We keep the sensation while doing four more steps back.
And it starts all over again.
And suddenly Akira San screams: “Sensations are not individual! They are common! Like the air you breathe!” (He obviously screams in Japanese, but Mathew – the translator – carried away by a common sensation screams as well – in English of course.)
Akira San moves backwards, backwards, opens the back door of the studio and walks out still fixing us with his piercing black eyes. “I can share your sensation from back here!” screams Mathew who’s standing right next to us.
The walking stops, our stopped walks continue for another half hour.
It is such a pity that you actually cannot see and therefore fully experience what we are doing with this amazing Butoh master.
Thinking of this, an article by Andre Lepecki comes to my mind. In “Writing in motion” he researches on what it means to write about dance, and what is the choreographic connection between eye, hand and memory in relation to translating a dance that has happened.
Which is exactly what I am doing here. Him and myself, we actually share similar reflections!
I am wondering how to enable you, my dear readers, how to make it possible for you to picture me dancing Butoh. In making this attempt to describe the dance that has already happened, following Lepecki’s thought I must bring myself and my dance back to life in the mnemonic theatre (the theatre of the memory, in case you weren’t fluent either in Greek or Latin). Eventually, you could bring to life by projection another – yet the same – dance while reading about it.
Now, if I myself was to vaguely divagate around this topic, the effect could be my eternal and never-ending and constantly changing Butoh dance.
I simply love the idea of eternalizing my dance through this text!
Lepecki might have drifted in some other direction but this conclusion is more than appealing to me.
I shall now retreat to the theatre for rehearsals, although hopefully I will at the same time still be dancing in some private theatre of yours.
In case you were somewhere around the Angers’ CNDC and wanted to have a comparatory glimpse, I will leave the doors of studio 3 open.
Yours, constantly walking forwards and backwards, Ophelia.