Searching for Tatsumi Hijikata

I have been practicing butoh since I had my first butoh class by Øyvind Jørgensen at The Nordic Black Theatre school in Oslo in the year 2001. The energy of this art form was so strong in my body that it had the strength to impulse me on a long travel through Europe, then South- America and now to its origins in Japan. I have trained with over 25 different butoh teachers throughout my career, and touched many different forms of butoh core trainings as well as performance styles and philosophic points of views regarding this dance. 

Supported by The Nordic Sasakawa Foundation and FFUK, Norway I finally traveled to Japan in September 2019 with the intention of learning butoh in its home country Japan. I did not have any other pretension with this travel than to feel this dance roots. One of my destinations was the Kamaitachi Museum of Art in Ugo, Tashiro. They hold an exhibition of the work from Eikoh Hosoe photo book “Kamaitachi”, featuring Butoh pioneer Tatsumi Hijikata.

Both Hose and Hijikata grew up in this area and their childhood memories was from the countryside of rice fields. They decided to do a photoshoot together here. This shoot turns out to be part of the most important work of the history of butoh as well as photography. 

Hosoe photographed Hijikata’s spontaneous interactions with the landscape and the people they encountered. The two artists inspired by the legend of kamaitachi, a weasel-like demon who haunts rice fields, enacted an intense investigation and seductive combination of performance and photography, of tradition and an exploration, both personal and symbolic, of contemporary convulsions in Japanese society.

This sight specific form of performance is an important form of butoh performances in Europe today. The legacy of connecting to the environment where you dance and the ability of spontanity is of great value. A butoh dancer does not only dance for the human audience that chose to come and watch a performance at a venue, one will perform and dance for the ground one walks on as well as the air and the walls around us, one will integrate the history if the place and honour who and whatever has been moving there before you. This concept of butoh moves my dance with great strength. I feel gratitude when I am able to share my dance in an unconventional environment, without great sceneries, lights, music and a paying audience.

I did not perform in the streets nor in the rice fields of Ugo, Tashiro. I connected with the rice fields through learning a little bit about the importance of these fields today. Since they are farmed the traditional way of farming is about to disappear, and is taken over by the work of machines. In the same way as dance and performance has disappeared from the streets and from the people and have been put inside black boxes and many times very separated from the audience. The natural contact with nature’s is disappearing as the natural contact between people. So we become artists who recreate human life in an unnatural habitat. This experience was part of my performance later that night in the Kamaitachi Museum of Art.

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