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Being moved: the transformative power of butoh: towards an articulation of an aesthetics of butoh

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posted on 03.03.2017, 01:09 by Smith, Helen Suzanne
This thesis sets out to uncover the core elements that constitute butoh and identify the features that distinguish it from other forms of dance. It begins from the premise that underlying all butoh practice are the three elements of transformation, ‘being moved’, and the empty body. Transformation relates to the metamorphosis of the dancer’s body, as well as the transformation of the space and the transformation of the spectators’ experience, as a consequence of being co-present in the performance. ‘Being moved’ as it relates to butoh refers to the way in which the dancers are not moving of their own free will but are instead ‘danced’ by internal and external forces, driven by image. The empty body, one full of potential, is the starting point for dance. The work also aims to make a contribution to the field of ‘butoh as practice’. It focuses on a training methodology that evolved over the course of two years and a creative development leading to a self-devised butoh performance with an ensemble of Australian women. A significant part of this thesis is an analysis of the performance, incorporating written feedback from the spectators. Alongside this, I also refer to a book by Erika Fischer-Lichte (2008) who introduces a “new aesthetics of the performative”. Her articulation of performance as event provides a useful discourse for talking about butoh. The starting point of this body of work was a three-year period of study with several esteemed butoh artists in Tokyo, Japan from 2007 to 2010. To try to discover the commonalities amidst such diverse styles of teaching and performance was the initial impetus for this investigation.


Principal supervisor

Stuart Grant

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre

Theatre and Performance

Degree Type


Campus location



Faculty of Arts

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