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Butoh’s subversive somatics

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Once relatively unknown outside of Japan, today butoh is gaining recognition as a movement training and performance genre. In English-language literature it is frequently characterized as ‘somatic’. What kind of somatics does butoh propose? To answer this question, this article places butoh within a larger historical framework of dance and western somatics, noting shared values and points of conflict. The research draws from the author’s co-taught community class in San Francisco to identify several aspects of what the author calls ‘butoh-based somatics’: practice as self-training, choreographic forces and performance attention. The article concludes by posing that to understand butoh’s subversive appeal for dancers and others seeking social change, the practice must be adapted and kept in dialogue with specific locations and contexts.
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Keywords: Japanese; San Francisco; butoh; choreography; dance; performance; somatics; training

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of San Francisco

Publication date: June 1, 2018

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  • This journal focuses on the relationship between dance and somatic practices, and the influence of this body of practice on the wider performing arts. The journal will be aimed at scholars and artists, providing a space for practitioners and theorists to debate the work, to consider the impact and influence of the work on performance, the interventions that somatic practices can have on other disciplines and the implications for research and teaching.
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