New Butoh carries upon its shoulders the themes of self-destruction, self-annulment and all the consequences of war (also because, unlike the original Butoh, New Butoh performers never actually lived in that time and under those conditions). New Butoh’s themes now connect with Nature and cultural tendencies, focusing also on a new relationship with the human condition (an undervalued and seldom revealed aspect of modern society).
In 2005, in Palermo, Yoshito Ohno (son of Kazuo Ohno, the cofounder of Butoh with Tatsumi Hijkata) and Sayoko Onishi discussed the idea of “Butoh and New Butoh” during a convention.
In fact, Sayoko Onishi was already moving beyond the traditional idea of Butoh, fusing all of her past experiences with new elements. As a matter of fact, Onishi’s teaching, choreography and dancing experience in Sicily played a fundamental role in the birth of her New Butoh. This region’s history, the influence of different cultures such as Fenici, Greek and Arabic informed her concept of New Butoh. Classical figures in Butoh, codified by Tatsumi Hijkata and later by Yukio Waguri, have been processed and assume a more “site specific” identity. New Butoh’s style now has influences from Sicilian “zagarie”, mythological Greek figures instead of the previous Japanese ones. A “gaki” (Japanese demon) can become a Venus, a rose can turn into a catus, an ares, a samurai. In terms of birth, Sicilian Spring (Primavera Siciliana), created in 2006, is the real manifesto of New Butoh.
“New Butoh gathers all the experiences of my life.
I’ve studied ballet, contemporary dance, Japanese traditional dance and Butoh.
Later on, I’ve specialized in China in the Tai Chi Chuan and Qì Gōng techniques.
I’ve worked with as many choreographers as I could (classical, contemporary, butoh, African, flamenco, traditional Japanese, Indonesian, Chinese…) interacting with a variety of artists (musicians, composers, actors, visual artists, poets, writers, performers, painters, photographers…)
Artists’ different backgrounds lead me to confront cultures very different from mine but, actually, my whole life has been a constant moving around in different places.
Every time was a challenge, jumping into unknown universes.
Every time I dived deep into the artist and the persona, digging out something inside of me.
Every time I had to create something new, merging with people, cultures and disciplines.
Other times ideas were born from confrontation.
I’ve collected these creations over the years and synthetized in my own method.
New Butoh represents an inner way to learn from yourself, your body and your deepest Io.
The individual can discover its various inner shades, starting a metamorphosis of the physical self-expression.
Everything, including fundamental techniques of Butoh, is the ground base for New Butoh’s origin.”
Ultimately New Butoh is a process of deconstruction, evolution and contamination particularly overwhelming and revolutionary, because with its elements of oriental philosophy and martial arts, it can unite different cultures and populations. Another specific element of New Butoh is the introduction of Yoga training, in the form of Oki-do with some basic techniques of Qì Gōng. This is utilized to protect the dancer’s psychophysical well-being and to remove physical, mental and spiritual limitations that stand in the way of the development of the dance.
A circle connects us to a Universal Energy, triggering unpredictable events, ancestral images, primitive memories, primordial pulses. The body isn’t moving anymore but is moved by the energy, as if the body was led into dancing and the external vessel scattered, leaving room for the Presence and the Sense dwelling inside.
This method also includes elements and techniques of Centering Body applied to the Tanden discipline, Sensitization of Body, exercises to gather and control inner energy (Ki), Division of Body, Transferring images from sensation to physical expression, remodeling of time, space and sound conception, music and silence (Sensitization with others, with themselves and in opposition).
In 2005 Sayoko Onishi inaugurated the National Academy of Butoh in Palermo, later named New Butoh School, in collaboration with master Yoshito Ohno.
In 2020, after several years of pause, the Cultural Association for the Diffusion of New Butoh Dance in Ruvo di Puglia, coordinated by Mimma Di Vittorio, reboots the activity of the New Butoh School, once again under the guidance of Sayoko Onishi.
Written by Antonio Leto, Sayoko Onishi and Mimma di Vittorio
Note on Oki-do Yoga:
Its name came from the homonymous master Masahiro Oki, great expert in martial arts, Chinese and occidental traditional medicine. Travelling around the world he collected a vast experience in the health sector, practicing for a very long time Indian Yoga, Japanese Zen, Buddhist meditation, Shiatsu and acupuncture. His Yoga is not a method but a refined synthesis of all his experiences.