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TDR: The Drama Review 44.1 (2000) 62-70

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Fragments of Glass: A Conversation between Hijikata Tatsumi and Suzuki Tadashi

moderated by Senda Akihiko


Hijikata Tatsumi: The Words of Butoh

IMAGE LINK= IMAGE LINK= IMAGE LINK= IMAGE LINK= IMAGE LINK= Suzuki Tadashi is currently the Artistic Director of the Shizuoka Performing Arts Center in Shizuoka, Japan. He began working in theatre while a student at Waseda University. He was one of the leaders of the sh ogekijo undo (small theatre movement) and his own group, Waseda shogekijo (Waseda Small Theatre) produced numerous innovative works, with Shiraishi Kayoko as the main performer. Suzuki organizes the annual Toga Festival, in Toga, Toyama prefecture, which draws performing artists from around the world. He has a dozen books, including The Way of Acting (1986, Theatre Communications Group), which has been translated into both English and Korean.

SUZUKI: I was late [learning about the work of Hijikata Tatsumi], I guess. The first time was in 1968, when I saw Nikutai no hanran (Rebellion of the Body) at the Nihon seinen kan Hall. In any event, my first impression was intense. On the whole, using the body for expression means there's a gap. There's a gap between the body and words and also a considerable gap between the body and space. And quite a wind blows between them. So you fill that gap with concepts and a desire to analyze. But the first time I saw Mr. Hijikata's butoh, I had the feeling that here was a space where there was no need to kill time like that. That's why I can confront something like the reality of Mr. Hijikata's actions themselves. Expression using the body that way doesn't happen very often. And it was extremely intense.

But when I see noh and such, I no longer feel that fictional perfection exists based on a sense of crisis or in that sense of terror that if you take even one wrong step you will fall backwards into a dreadful abyss. To all appearances things still are like that, but in fact they are quite stable. My first impression of Mr. Hijikata's work was that sense of crisis. My feeling was that there was something like a sense of crisis, that going in such a direction is difficult and also that what emerges from it is quite chancy. Even when a certain relationship comes about, it's really very good because the relationship has a sense of [End Page 62] crisis. I rarely get that feeling of chance from the stage. That was my first impression and it's never changed.

I think it's very hard for a person who uses the body always to go in such a direction in these situations. It's difficult because we are only human. In that sense Mr. Hijikata has remained with me since that first time.

SENDA: Mr. Hijikata, I believe you saw [Suzuki's] Gekitekinaru mono o megutte (On Dramatic Passions, 1970) and Toroia no onna (The Trojan Women, 1974). What were your feelings about them?

HIJIKATA: Mr. Suzuki just referred to "space," "a sense of crisis," and how "even one wrong step makes you fall into the abyss." It's not about squeezing your body into a space but about its being stripped of things. If you're under the misapprehension that you are able to squeeze into a space, then something like writhing is exposed. What I felt on seeing Mr. Suzuki's productions was that the interpretation of space is something very dusty. If you're covered with dust, then even a fart will be connected to space and you don't have to think about space being chilly and antagonistic to the eyes. For example, if you turn the skins on things inside out, the hole created there is a space. Things turned inside out like that tightly fill up space and even envelop it. A body that is brought up breathing the air in such a place takes on the...


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