Butoh – Death of the circus

How many years did I struggle in circus classes to contort my body into the exact pose of the teacher, their teacher and their teacher? Feet must point, shoulders down, fingers closed like mittens….

I always wanted to move in abandon like an aerial banshee whirling and skimming the floor. Did you ever climb a tree as a kid? Did you ever do it with poise and and a straight spine? Would it have made any difference to your triumph reaching the top?

I don’t remember how, it was last year the idea came, but I found Butoh.

I won’t give you too much background on this form of modern dance from post war Japan as you can find lots. But what I can say is that my first views of performances made me squirm and want to look away. Ghostly vacant bodies contorted moved as though possessed. With anything in life you do not like it is best to dig and discover why.

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I found that these ‘beings’ painted white displayed truths in movement that were beyond anything I could put in the frame of dance. Curiosity led me to craving the want to dance my own dance, find my own body’s way both on the ground and with aerial.

Why must my legs be straight on trapeze? Why can’t I droop my arms or suck my thumb? Because that isn’t ‘circus’

Aerial dance (and even burlesque) was always about movement and expression to me. Being high up, doing big tricks are things I was never concerned with. If I can hang by one leg it is amazing but what does it Say?

I have been told my aerial silks are my big sticking plaster; my way of escaping the world.

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Plasters only cover up wounds. To me aerial dance is more of a voice. Forgive this for sounding quite hippyish but unlike a plaster, when I dance it is more like all the outer layers of me have peeled off and you are seeing my happy blissful soul spin and balance and swing. It is connecting with that kid climbing a tree again.

This is how I came to Butoh; needing to explore and find my own voice and language with my tatty trapeze.

Last night I took a long journey to rainy quiet Oxford and attended my first class. With any class in any subject there is always a bit of me that wants to leg it and find a Starbucks thinking I will be terrible.

Having not danced, other than in my low silks at home, and still not exactly knowing what Butoh is I found the class brilliantly welcoming as though I had been there many times. It was quite a challenge, especially just letting go and trying to relax and be aware of my body.

Any fears of feeling selfconcious vanished and I have no idea if what I did was Butoh or if I was just making odd poses but it was really fascinating to explore. It made me realise how much we move about often totally unaware of what our body is doing.

My balance is very shaky and yet I kept having the urge to put myself in folded, unbalanced positions.

I am full of questions

How do I know I am doing Butoh and not just doing what I’ve watched on Youtube?
It is often described as not moving but being moved. Why am I lifting my arm, tipping over?

My big question and I guess what I want to gain is how would my body dance if it was only just born in the body I currently have, and had never seen dance, had nothing to go by? How would it move?

Below are my two favourite performances I’ve seen so far.

butoh Solo

butoh dance

Trapeze Tales: Knitting?

if you are expecting a post on trapeze training/circus or really anything usually associated with a trapeze, I am not the place to go to. My trapeze is an object I’ve been through the wars with and adore. I use it extremely low combined with improvised movement.

The trapeze hung with a sneer as I swam back home; the only girl who refuses umbrellas.

‘What the hell happened to you?’ It questions with neither pulse or breath.

I just drip.

I went in search of silk and yarn. Your filthy ropes suffice far sweeter. To get out of a hole I have been advised to find a knitting group. I used to love wool, spinning yarn and making sheets of felt in the bath.

Now I recoil from anything wooly, crafty like it is suffocating and screams Spinsterdom.

It quite flatly says ‘you are not dancing’

Feet knit knots in aerial silks and you trapeze knit around my spine. How will yarn hold us up?

There is good intention and reason; I need new friends and people to talk to and work with. So fuelled with iced coffee and waterproof boots I reached a compromise that if I buy silk yarn, something delicate and fairytale-like, I may convince myself to ‘knit’. The shop was closed.

But what to make with hugely expensive tiny balls of japanese silk? What would suit an Ariadne? Can you suggest anything?

The trapeze still sneers, flippantly sugguests its kin are all highly hung (strung?) impressive things. Knitting! it scoffs and nudges the bruise it’s given on the centre of my spine.

‘Oh I’ve not forgotton you,’ I tell it, my soaked hair glued to the velvet around its rope.

I push the opposite rope between my big toe, the rig wearily creaks.

‘Darling there’s a place for us, can we go before I turn to dust’ Joanna Newson sings from phone speakers on the wet carpet.

There is a place for us.

‘Butoh,’ I grin against wet rope….

impro trapeze in limited space exploring Butoh concepts

I wrote songs

This time last year I left my village to a houseshare of mottled strangers, an angry landlord and oncoming Autumn in suburbia. I wrote songs. These are my 2 favourites written for autoharp and guitar.
Like all my lyrics they plop out my head without decision or planning.

Clockwork Orange Smile:

A Clockwork Orange,film and novel, are a love of mine. I learnt to read the slang and speak it without ever looking at the glossary. The name is a cockney saying for queer/weird -‘as queer as a clockwork orange’.
I had a friend that reminded me of Alex’s impish smile, the film stills are on my wall.

Lyrics;

Oh my brothers, my droogs my kin,
Can we hang up this mess that I’m in?
With pegs and dew and rope in the mornin’/mourning,
Til I forget where I have been

Oh Alex! I still need you,
To fix my heart of cogs and springs,
So that I can smile like clockwork,
And forget what I have seen

Hold me tight and lie that you miss me,
I will not be,
Back again?

Oh a little ‘ultra-violence’ never was a ‘real horrorshow’
Hold me tight and lie that you’ll miss me

I am left just holding to your clockwork orange smile

The second song is crossbone but actually I think I’ll write that song in another post, has a lot of historical London attached to it.

Ta ta x

I got healthiererer

A few weeks back I went back home to rather disbelievingly discover I had become 13st.

I had always been 11st when doing circus training every other day. The weird thing about my early days of trapeze was that I went from 10 to 11st shockingly quick but dropped two dress sizes. Even my teachers commented I had lost loads of weight but inside I was thinking ‘i’ve put it on!’

Injuries and drastically cutting back on training over the years have left me replacing pike pull ups with chocolate.

So in a ‘I think this is bollox’ attitude I started hula hooping daily to see what the hype was compared to using it for performin. I replaced all my tricks from performing with only spinning the hoop on my waist and lower hips for 15 minutes as soon as I got out of bed.

For someone that dances with hoops this is tedious but I’ve stuck with it. I like the repetition of it contacting my body and the fact that I can do it as easy as breathing after so many years but still break into a sweat. I do it with the radio talk shows on between the 15min news breaks.

Also I swiftly changed my diet to be mostly fruit, veg and nuts. A typical day of eating for me used to be like this;

2x egg mayo sandwiches from tescos (about 1200 cals)
Chocolate bar
A family sized pizza with salad and half a garlic baguette.
A big bag of cadburys giant buttons before bed.

Not hard to see where I was going wrong!

Luckily for me I love fresh fruit and crunchy raw veg so the change hasn’t been too hard but the biggest surprise has been that without all the cheese and sugars I no longer crave junk food and am rarely hungry.

A typical day for me now is:
Breakfast (always used to skip). – fruit, today banana and plums. (I am awake quite late in the morning only a few hours before lunch)
Lunch- Pumpkin seed Ryvita with humous and cucumber (i’m slightly addicted to cucumber chunks)

Dinner- quorn stir fry and rice and veg

Snacks- monkey nuts mmmm monkey nuts, used to eat them in primary school every day, fruit.

I’ve lost nearly a stone in 3 1/2 weeks. I use a calorie counter app:My Plate.

But….i have also pigged out on Tops vegi hot pizza and the odd frappacino with whipped cream, a pret cheese baguette here and there. Tonight I’m eating cookies after being on mg feet for 5 hours. Although chocolate actually tastes dull to me now I don’t eat it with every meal. I don’t believe in omitted foods or labelling foods as ‘bad’ or ‘sins’ or I will end up with an unhealthy relationship with food. But compared to how I used to eat I feel good about what I’ve changed.

Tips-cutting out fizzy drinks is obvious but in the hot weather (it’s now bucketing down with rain) making ice cubes from fruit and herbal tea is so refreshing.

– Eat dinner in a small bowl like how you would have noodles, if having veggie curries or stews. It looks like a heap of food but less than you’d fill a plate with.

– Eat regularly. Sounds obvious but my doctor told me I was going so long without food during busy days that my body had gone into emergency mode and was storing all the fat because it had no idea when the next meal was coming.

– if you hate exercise find something to do thats active but you enjoy too much to think about it as getting fit. Take the dogs for a long walk, dance like it’s still the 90’s, find a class in something you know you are awful at but makes you laugh at yourself trying.

What are you’re tips and advice for cutting down on the cake binges and keeping active without it becoming a chore.

Back to the Cabarethoop, dance, training, choreography

I had a rare moment of not feeling like a sloth to start plotting my hoop comeback. Below is the video an hour in to devising.

The idea is going to be more twisted burlesque than fat 30 something.

Luckily, living in a charity apartment block for the visually impaired there is a huge empty room with water cooler, free wifi, punch bag and er a mobility scooter? No one ever uses it except to access the laundry room. Sxcept the woman walking through the video, more than likely on purpose. She works here and always talks to me like something she trod in. Ho-hum..

.hoop devising

I’m starting recording from where in the song i start hooping and also when the music breaks down I’m just plotting other moves I didn’t have height for.

At this stage it’s mostly just mapping out the song in my memory.
But I’m happy it is progressing from just a thought. I hope to find a scratch night or newbie slot to test it out and will post development here.