TDR: The Drama Review 44.1 (2000) 56-59
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From Being Jealous of a Dog's Vein
Hijikata Tatsumi: The Words of Butoh
Only when, despite having a normal, healthy body, you come to wish that you were disabled or had been born disabled, do you take your first step in butoh. A person who dances butoh has just such a fervent desire, much like a child's longing to be crippled.
When I see children throw sticks and stones at a lame dog trying to slink from sight, then corner it against a wall, and mindlessly beat it, I feel jealous of the dog. Why? Because it is the dog which derives the most benefit here. It is the dog that tempts the children and, without considering its own situation, exposes itself completely. One kind of dog may even do so with its intestines hanging red from its belly.
With fish and birds, things are quite different. First of all, fish do not have legs. Also, I have to prepare myself in various ways before entering that dimly lit world that fish see each day. With birds, I am unable to get excited unless I first crush the birds together with their nesting box before taking them on. I get my first thrill only after I struggle to clear away heavy obstacles, then find lots of eggs incubating underneath it all.
I am able to look at a naked human body savaged by a dog. This is an essential lesson for butoh and leads to the question of exactly what ancestor a butoh person is.
I adore rib cages but, again, it seems to me that a dog's rib cage is superior to mine. This may be some old mental image I have. On rainy days I sometimes see a dog's rib cage and feel defeated by it. From the start, my butoh has had no use for cumbersome fat or superfluous curves. Just skin and bones, with a bare minimum of muscle--that's the ideal. If blue veins can be seen through a dog's skin, then there is no need at all for a woman's body. Even when, as now, I struggle to write something, a woman is just no help; she is not even able to serve as an eraser. I have known this for as long as I can remember, with an understanding that reverberates deep in my heart.
I have yearned again and again for the meaning of where to start, a meaning I have not been able to ascertain in my own life and which does not come alive in my talent. I cherish wet animals and the bodies of the old, withered like dead trees, precisely because I believe that through them I may be able to come close to my desire. My body longs to be cut into pieces and to hide itself somewhere cold. I think that is, after all, the place to which I shall return and am [End Page 56] certain that, frozen hard and about to fall down, what my eyes have seen there is simply an intimacy with things which continue to die their own deaths.
I have now and again thought about keeping a corpse. But I get bored with things such as cotton or spider webs, lightbulbs or bread, which require gentle handling. Undoubtedly, I too grew up melting my brain while drowning in the futon in the closet and eating soggy rice crackers, but those feelings, those emotions have now gone totally astray somewhere in my body and are unable to develop into anything even close to that terror I felt, wondering where I had gone in the dead of the night.
If the whereabouts of food that can jolt us is lost, I think humans will be as good as half dead. I have a childhood memory of eating so much chicken, a food that frightened both my mind and body, that I only nibbled at other foods, without swallowing them. For...