Don McLeod's Butoh
Workshops & Classes

The following are examples of techniques taught during my workshops:

Overview of the work and its objectives. In this class we take the student back to a primitive, childlike state and explore the mind/body movements of the subconscious. The resulting movements are most often natural, creative and unrehearsed. The exercises are about transformation and physical/emotional identity with the world around us. We work directly toward becoming "other" within the context of the moment.

We begin in a slow-motion mode, and purposely distort or crumple the body, to help the student get rid of his/her acquired mannerisms and codified gestures. From this focused yet improvised place, the student is able to make new discoveries about the way their body moves.

Demonstration of Butoh stance, walk and mental state of alert unconsciousness. Sound Design/ for body movement is explained. We begin group improvisation ... with the focus on letting go of the various socially acquired mannerisms and gestures that the students are naturally most comfortable with. Discussion & reactions are shared, based on the just completed work.





We learn the basics behind the Butoh "walk" and explore extreme slow motion movement in silence. I discuss and show how stillness is as important as movement. Examples are given using techniques borrowed from Kabuki, Noh and Bunraku theatre. Group improves using Butoh techniques: We learn to allow ourselves the freedom to let the body fully express itself in whatever manner feels necessary at the moment.

We learn how to "distort" the body in order to awaken/release the more primitive unconscious movements of man. We work on returning to a childlike state, where actions are free and natural. Group improvs are done. Then an improvisation is explained where the students work with closed eyes, which allows them to "safely" physicalize whatever feelings and emotions they may experience. Sound design/music is played that guides them on this internal journey of exploration and discovery.

We discuss "becoming other" which is an essential part of the course work. We work on being in a specific environment and then dancing that place through our physical & emotional responses. i.e. walking upstream during a flood, moving against a windstorm, trapped in a meat-locker, running on hot sand, moving through a giant vat of honey, etc.

We view rare video tapes of leading Japanese butoh artists and companies. Tapes include translated interviews, live performances and workshop footage. We view Etienne Decroux's techniques of corporeal mime work and a performance.

We work on animal studies, with a focus on becoming as opposed to imitation of the animal. We do animal improvs which are first assigned and then chosen by the student. These are performed for the class and discussed. The Butoh group is now divided in half (students are learning to explore/perform for others) and to relate to each other's energy and attitudes. We work on relaxation of the whole body, and then on individual parts. Example: hands, foreman, head & neck, legs, etc. We learn to work on different levels, and to create various & spontaneous states of being based on verbally issued imagery (Hijikata's Butoh Fu).

The "Fishing Net" is brought in (an actual 50 ft. ocean fishing net) and the students explore Butoh within the confines of the net. They learn to restrict their movements and explore physical resistance within the net. They also learn to react to outside stimuli (when the net is pulled by another, they have to go with that impulse). The class explores transformational Butoh work using the net and my various emotionally- based sound design CD's.

Imagery-based movement. At this point I push the students to not perform, but rather to just "be" within the context of the verbalized imagery. Examples are: Your body is an empty shell and filled with smoke, it wisps out from a hole in the top of your head ....... a thousand cockroaches begin crawling up your legs ........ butterflies land on you as you bask in a sunlit meadow ........ you journey back into your mother's womb ...... now begin ........ you are a giant insect made of rusting tin ........ etc. Group improvs on these changing stimuli and we discuss the results.

Warm ups this time include finding an energy center in the lower abdomen (based on Chinese Chi Kung techniques). Students work on moving with a center of controlled tension. We explore stillness as a means of expression

Advanced body isolation exercises are introduced. These involve many different positions of the body ..... example: head forward, then tilted right, neck forward, then tilted right, chest inclined to the rear, then rotated right, waist forward, pelvis forward, then tilted right, then rotated right ........ then reversed .... piece by piece back to center ....... then finding the position without the stops.

Butoh work explores the dark side of the students nature. Sounds from underground tunnels, graveyards, etc ...... the students are encouraged to explore their personal fears, blocks and demons, and to let those darker forces reveal themselves. (This is a place where some amazing things happen. Many students have had "major breakthroughs" during this exercise.) Time is taken to share the sometimes dramatic episodes they encounter (but only if the student wishes). We end the class with a group support exercise. All the students lie together and are physically connected by an arm or a foot ....the piece progresses as each student works separately, yet remains connected to the group.

Students then learn body manipulations with a partner. We work on relaxation techniques, and stretches of the spine, legs and hips. We learn Grotowski's famous CAT exercise, and then work on finding levels of tension in walks ..... example: Walks are based on a energy/tension level of 1 thru 10. We explore these levels and make sure the students become aware of what these levels do to the moving body and how to apply them when needed. ---------- Exploration involving personal memory of a major event in the person's life. The following group improvs are based on the central theme of three or more "important" emotions/memories the student has experienced in their distant past. (This is often a very emotionally heavy and revealing session ...... and a substantial cooling down session follows, with a group discussion.

Time permitting, a group piece is created and performed. The students present butoh solos & duets, which are video taped. We hug or wave goodbye .... Every exit is an entrance somewhere else!

If you're interested in attending a Butoh workshop, Please email me. Thanks!



Copyright 2002, Don McLeod, All rights reserved.