Recently, I had the opportunity to take part in a Jinen Butoh workshop led by Atsushi Takenouchi, here in Budapest. He's a very talented dancer and a lovely person, so the intensive 3 days were
an absolute treat.
I first learned about Butoh dance when I was still a student through an article I found in a performing arts magazine, and I've been interested in it ever since. We used some of its principles and training for devising a theatre piece back in Costa Rica and I think it is a powerful way of connecting with our deepest emotional currents.
Our body is our instrument and we need to keep it well tuned. Dance help us to develop a sense of rythm and improve our awareness. Butoh helps us to dive into what we keep hidden, bring it
outside and make it explode.
When explaining the concept of Jinen Butoh, Atsushi said that we need to embrace everything, and then transform it (through movement): Sorrow becomes a blooming flower. For an actor, "to embrace everything" is vital when rehearsing and performing, but is also vital not getting stuck in a single emotion or moment. One of the dangers of going directly into your personal memories to "find the emotion" is losing the connection with the text, the scene partners and the audience. You risk becoming overwhelmed by your own personal history, throwing away the character you were supposed to play.
I've found that in Butoh you can experience deep, powerful emotional moments; but since these are found through dance and physical work you are able to channel them to serve the story you are telling, rather than being swallowed by them.
Another thing that resonated with me during the workshop was something Atsushi repeated through the exercises, whenever we had to stop and mantain a single position: "the form has energy". Even when you are not moving, the body must stay alive. You are not resting, you are still telling a story.
Obviuosly, that form or shape will be different if you are dancing, performing on stage or performing for the camera. But even subtle shifts can make a big difference on how a text is delivered or how a character is perceived. Sometimes it seems that body awareness is sacrificed for the sake of "being natural", and I think that can hurt the performance. (I tend to enjoy the work of actors who are very precise in their movements and physicality the most, so I'm probably biased. ;) )