TDR: The Drama Review 44.1 (2000) 36-42
[Access article in PDF]
Hijikata Tatsumi: The Words of Butoh
"You have to pull your stomach up high in order to turn your solar plexus into a terrorist." That line is from a letter I sent to Ms. Elian Margaret, a woman with psychic powers who wrote a commentary last summer about my anal art. This woman was a good collaborator (and the person who gave me my annual tonsure), but owing to intense conflicts in my daily life I was in a state of secretly hiring someone in civilian clothes and continuing to choreograph. It is she who recommended that I write an essay on impotence and told me, too, in a letter written with invisible ink, that the anuses of Greek youth were utterly ruined. There is no way to remove ignorance and misery from my dances, but I do not want people to draw a lesson about hereditary diseases from them, as Ms. Margaret did. I have never been visited by genius and my appearance is far from that of a certified incompetent. Not a devotee of ghost aesthetics, I am a mere virgin. My semen should bring a good price.
Fourteen years ago, I became a disciple of a woman dance teacher in my hometown. I was fond of the phrase "to become a disciple," so I put on new underpants and went through the gate to the teacher's house. Because the term "foreign dance," however, made me vaguely anxious, I hesitantly asked her what kind it was, while at the same time thinking I would just quit if it were not what I wanted. When she told me it was German dance, I immediately took steps to become a disciple. I figured that since Germany was hard, its dance too would be hard.
In the fall of 1948, in Tokyo, I saw a wonderful dance performance, overflowing with lyricism, by a man wearing a chemise. Cutting the air again and again with his chin, he made a lasting impression on me. For years this drug dance stayed in my memory. That dance has now been transformed into a deadly poison, and one spoonful of it contains all that is needed to paralyze me. Obstinate passion is covered blackly by the alteration of an image; he had the dimensions of a cabinetmaker measuring a dense territory with a ruler hidden in his breast. Yet where did that dancer get his hands, unlike any I have ever seen? They were the hands of Maldoror. 1 [Arthur] Rimbaud was at one time our supreme song. Kuroki Fuguto's 2 studio was in Ikenohata kuromon-cho and, after a close examination, anyone who said he loved Rimbaud could become a member of the club. Even recalling it now, our mad baptism was something. We all went by the name of Torakuru or Soutine or some such. 3 Early on Torakuru was being forced by Swann to be a [End Page 36] [Begin Page 38] virgin, but it was much later in the club's history that Modilio became Toby. Arp worked for a design company. We welcomed the misery provided by alcohol. This small fellow carved stone as if he were making paper cuttings. Was it necessary to emphasize the slope of his right shoulder so much just because he had only one testicle, which never saw the light of day?
There appeared a court noble who drew obi 4 designs and carried a hidden jackknife. Because of this man, who brought drugs into the toilet, we had to prove our innocence and our romantic dream was gradually destroyed. The club went downhill when someone who played with guns joined it.
The method of murder has lost its seriousness. I do not know how often I proposed the need for chopping heads with a hoe. Tragedy must be given precedence over production or it is just too frivolous. I remember how intensely lonely I felt when they all laughed at me for saying that we...