Month: April 2015

Photo by Nigo Chong The Chinese fox having her wedding

BUTOH

Myth of Butoh

Hi it’s Laichee again,

As well as being an MA student I am also a Butoh dancer, when GemArts discovered this they asked if I would write a piece for the blog explaining a bit about this dance form, so here it is.

I first started learning Butoh in 2009 with Malaysia’s first Butoh company Nyoba Kan. At this time I also learned from an important mentor, Yukio Waguri, a Butoh master from Japan. Yukio Waguri was the main disciple of Butoh founder, Hijikata Tatsumi (1928-1986).

Butoh was founded by Hijikata and Kazuo Ohno after World War II, when Japan was ruined and people started questioning their Japanese identity, resulting in Western culture becoming overly influential. Hijikata wanted to find a “true” dance, one that demonstrates the real identity of the dancers. Hijikata did many experiments before he named this new dance form “Ankoku Butoh” (dance of darkness). Unlike Western Ballet dance, in which the dancers try to dance upward and reach to the sky, Butoh dancers try to move downward to the earth, where they try to find their identity in the inner world.

The spirits suffer in Hell Photo by Royer Wan

The spirits suffer in Hell Photo by Royer Wan

Indeed it is not easy to give a definition of what Butoh is, I always forget exactly how I have explained Butoh right after I have told people about it. I would love to share with you the meaning of Butoh, as written by my dance mentor Mr. Waguri, so please read on and enjoy his thoughts on this art form.

What is Butoh?

By Yukio Waguri

[Translated from original text written in Japanese]

Butoh Master and Choreogrpaher Yukio Waguri by Nigo Chong

The Butoh master and choreographer Yukio Waguri Photo by Nigo Chong

The word of the “Butoh” has come from China. It also appeared in Japanese ancient documents 1,000 years ago. Before that the “Butoh” itself meant foreign culture or entertainment. The “Butoh-kai” held during Meiji period also used in the meaning to express the western culture. Currently, an enormous information network was set up all over the world, and the speed of the international interchange has really changed. Nowadays all of us facing with the overflow of the information, but that is necessity to stop once and consider the meaning of the “Butoh” again.

The character [Bu] of the “Butoh” means to turn/spin, over the mind concentration, it caused a de-soul situation then to let the spirit of god or ancestors or ghost to go into the empty container or human body and make them dance. And for the character “toh”, means step cautiously, jump, while the body absorbed the energy from the earth, the existence of the power to confine the bad soul of the underground. Also for the liberation from the daily hard working, the joyfulness of the good harvest, then become a celebration of religious service in the rhythm of nature, a ritual ceremony to call the spirits of the ancestral to return happily, and after that developed into a national level religious event. Naturally these “Butoh” exist everywhere in the world. It is not the unique thing that only occurred in Japan.

Then, what is the meaning of “Butoh” in nowadays? Due to the pioneer appearance of Hijikata Tatsumi/Ono Kazuo in year 1950-60, those arts expression was called avant-garde dance (ankoku butoh). After some time the “Butoh” was recognized and spreads out to the world, from then the name “ankoku” was disappeared and they started to call it “Butoh”. But I think that “ankoku” is the most important part for me. To set one foot step into the totally new area, actually it is an experiment mind for me. That is the reason why “Butoh” is defined as art. Why does the human desire for the light? I think none of them would like to live along in the darkness, neither in the society nor inside the human himself. We can only imagine the Land of Happiness, but the Hell is always in front of us. We must continuously face the darkness and death. Even if we try to ignore their appearance, with only express the existing beautifulness and dreamlike story, it will be turnout to be a poor art performance.

The “Butoh” shows that the existence of human being itself is an art. Currently we believe the harmony between the power and simplistic beauty from Europe, excessive belief to the health, the standard value of the beauty of the proportion, forced to accept the value of the commercialization of the arts. Especially the tendency is obvious in the dancing. So the “ankoku Butoh” began to pose the doubt about them. Isn’t it the “Butoh” rediscovered the human gentleness after the 2nd world war? What is the “beauty”? What is the expression come from the the unique ethnicity body/culture? These questions are the starting points of the “Butoh”. The arrogant humanism, mammonism are covered the world and begin to alienate human being itself now. The uneasiness for the human being actually is the human being itself now.

Although globalization is loudly shouted nowadays, each of us has to find our ways to solve the problems and step forward. “Avant-garde art, zen ei gei jyutsu” isn’t formed by begging hands. False or untrue gentleness and sympathy have nothing to do with “Butoh”, because everyone stands with their own foot to start to dance. And it is necessary to go through a long pupa period to become to flap like a beautiful butterfly. There is hope in the difficulty, after pass through the darkness then the light of the hope is waiting for us. While the world is facing with the political turbulences and the changes of the economy, in fact in our inner side, “Butoh” let us know that there is a boundless space surpassing the reality. The master Hijikata Tatsumi said that “the Butoh learn from nature, the body learn from the things”, I feel that is very meaningful for me. I think that the “Butoh” lives independently in the world, and from now on I will keep on thinking what is “Butoh”?

Post by Laichee (with text from Yukio Waguri)

VAISAKHI

This year Vaisahki falls on Tuesday 14th April, and later this month GemArts and GVEMSG host their annual celebrations at Gateshead Civic Centre, which will mark this special date in the Sikh calendar. Here we share information on Vaisahki and its importance within Sikhism.

Vaisakhi is a long established harvest festival in Punjab.  It falls on 13th April every year, except every thirty-sixth year where it falls on the 14th April.

Vaisakhi is one of the holiest days in Sikhism, commemorating Khalsa, i.e. the establishment of the religion in 1699, as it also marks the Sikh New Year.  It is also observed with different significance attached to it in different parts of India.

Vaisakhi in Sikhism

Vaisakhi is one of the biggest celebrations of the year for the Sikh community.  It is one of the holiest days in Sikhism, commemorating KHALSA, the establishment of the Sikh religion. Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth guru of the Sikh founded the Khalsa at the Vaisakhi gathering is 1699 at Anandpur. Guru Gobind Singh had arranged for followers from all over India to meet him at the Vaisahki fair in Anandpur.  He asked for five people to come forward who were willing to die for their religion. After the prayers he sprinkled AMRIT – water with sugar (strength must always be balanced by sweetness of temperament) and stirred with a steel sword (symbolising the need for strength). He declared them to be the first members of a new community of equals, to be called Khalsa, meaning pure. They will dedicate their lives to the service of others and the pursuit of justice for people of all faiths.  These five people were called the PANJ PYARE, and were asked to wear five distinctive symbols of their new identity, the five ‘k’s and a turban.

  1.  Kesh (long uncut hair) – The long uncut hair symbolises chivalry, saintness and courage.
  2.  Khanga (comb)- It is needed to keep the long hair set and tidy, symbolises cleanliness.
  3.  Kirpan (sword)-A sword is a symbol for royalty and knighthood
  4.  Kara (iron bracelet)-Symbol of everlasting love for God. It is round like a ring and therefore no beginning or end.
  5.  Kachera (underwear)-Specially tailored shorts and symbolises purity and restraint.

TURBAN: The turban has great significance in Sikhism. Apart from looking smart and handsome, it is considered the CROWN of a Sikh. It is true to say that without a turban there is no Kaur or Singh just as without a crown there is no king or queen.

To end social divisions, the Panj Pyara’s surnames were removed by the Guru, mainly because surnames were associated with ones cast – the Guru gave them (and all Sikh men) the name SINGH, meaning the “lion”, a reminder of the need for courage.  At the same time, the Guru gave all Sikh women the name or title Kaur, meaning “princess” to emphasise dignity and complete equality. The Guru then knelt below the five and asked them to initiate him. Hence, the Khalsa became a community in which master and disciple were equal.

Vaisakhi brings a unique message of tolerance, harmony and equality amongst Sikh communities. In a modern day society, it is clear to observe the equality amongst all citizens, regardless of their class, colour and gender through Sikhism. By working together communities can strengthen themselves with a wide understanding of the rich diversity they are surrounded by.

Celebration by Farmers

As far as farmers are concerned, Vaisakhi is not a religious occasion for them. India is a farming country. Vaisakhi is the time to harvest the crops especially wheat. On Vaisakhi farmers thank God for the beautiful crop and pray for good times ahead. People buy new clothes, sing, dance and enjoy the best of festival food.

For more information on our Vaisahki Celebrations event taking place on Saturday 25th April visit here.