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Open Butoh Manifesto

“We are broken from birth. We are only corpses standing in the shadow of life.” – Tatsumi Hijikata¹

Butoh is a relatively obscure art form and subculture hidden like a pearl in the mud. Those who ally with it reap unexpected yet rich harvests. These harvests can reach such a level that an insatiable desire may form to spread it.


Butoh needs to be spread. The ages-old war between the domesticated machine being and the free being continues. Humans are victims of domestication upheld by nationality, age, gender, religion, vocation, etc, and though these associations may feel safe, they may also be the railings of a cage. The cage door opens from time to time for the master to drop in some food. Yet this food is never enough, but just enough to keep one distracted or comfortably numb as Pink Floyd says. This cage is not a cage when it is the only thing one knows.

The sooner we cut from so many of the terms encroached upon us at birth, the sooner we will enter into life resonance as multidimensional, indescribable entities. Extraordinary. Marvelous. One without another. Anybody saying otherwise is either an agent of the brainwashing machine or a slave. Exercise discernment. We are something else.

“A samurai commander becomes a queen; the queen will be put in a box of joints. The reincarnation from the box is the dancer, Hoopee.” – Tatsumi Hijikata²

Don’t bite the hand that feeds you. Distract the hand then escape.


Like the Tao, though Butoh has a name, it defies precise definition. Butoh is a rhizomic process of perpetual edits, taking root in the freest of free spaces. Because of this, Butoh can and has taken place within performance art, acting, theater, circus arts, and therapy. The applications are endless.  Promising fields, for instance, which only a rare few have ventured into are Butoh for the differently abled and/or the elderly, and Butoh for children.

We can all agree on one thing. Butoh needs to spread its tentacles out more globally. One person alone cannot do this. This is a collective effort. As Rhizome Lee may note, for something to happen, there needs to be an initiator, but nothing can happen with only initiators. There needs to be promoters as well, then followers: initiator → promoter → follower.

Then we will have Butoh from all sides, encouraging us to keep being the multidimensional artists we are.


¹ Viala, Jean and Masson-Sekine, Nourit, eds., 1988. Butoh, Shades of Darkness, Shufunotomo Co. Ltd. Page 187.
² Lee, Rhizome. Behind The Mirror: A Butoh Manual For Students. Translation of Tatsumi Hijikata’s Quite House. 2010.