Presentation Title

Acting in Darkness: Butoh Dance as Acting Method

Authors' Names

Danielle Sather

Presentation Type

Oral Presentation

Abstract

Acting in Darkness (AiD) is a developing acting method for actors in theatre for social change. Developed after Hiroshima hit Japan, butoh was a dance form meant to guide performers through a transformational experience. The goal was to offer audiences performative movement that could aid in discovering a new, collective Japanese identity amidst great losses and suffering. That is, the butoh dancer looks towards darkness to find light. The process and ideology behind butoh, often likened to Buddhist philosophies, calls performers to find power in suffering; to embrace the darkness because darkness is defined by its ability to be illuminated. The aesthetics and process used in butoh both empowers the underdog by honoring the grotesque, and calls audiences to sit with, and share in the discomfort of the "other". AiD recontextualizes butoh movement as a tool for actors to safely embody characters, while serving as a voice for disadvantaged communities.

Even in popular theatre, it is incredibly important for actors to have a set of tools that will allow them to step into the shoes of a variety of different characters—especially those who seem morally questionable—without judging the character, or jeopardizing their emotional health. This is true, perhaps even more so, for actors who work with theatre for social change, as they are often representing real people and communities while rising awareness around the issues these people face. With this work it is both necessary to approach character as objectively as possible, while also supporting the over-arching message being communicated through performance (ex. the prison industrial complex, lgbtq+ rights, etc...). Preliminary research on widely used acting techniques has guided the development of the AiD process. For instance, Michael Chekov believed the actor should experience a dual conscieneness while performing; allowing them to both see the world from the perspective of their character while maintaining artistic control with the ability to continually critique ones process. The high physical demand of Jerzy Growtowski's method was coften coupled with imagery to springboard the imagination in order to manifest honest physical and emotional character development. In contrary, AiD draws from butoh exercizes that certainly elicit similar experiences as mentioned above, and then challenges those outcomes even further. AiD uses choreographing processes from butoh to help actors, who are certainly in privlidged positions, approach characters through a process of transformatively embodying injustice in order to see the world from the perspective of those for whom they are speaking. The highly physical and meditative aspects present in butoh allow actors to root their emotional journeys within the movement, and therefore release themselves of that emotional baggage when necessary.

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Apr 27th, 3:45 PM Apr 27th, 4:00 PM

Acting in Darkness: Butoh Dance as Acting Method

UC Ballroom

Acting in Darkness (AiD) is a developing acting method for actors in theatre for social change. Developed after Hiroshima hit Japan, butoh was a dance form meant to guide performers through a transformational experience. The goal was to offer audiences performative movement that could aid in discovering a new, collective Japanese identity amidst great losses and suffering. That is, the butoh dancer looks towards darkness to find light. The process and ideology behind butoh, often likened to Buddhist philosophies, calls performers to find power in suffering; to embrace the darkness because darkness is defined by its ability to be illuminated. The aesthetics and process used in butoh both empowers the underdog by honoring the grotesque, and calls audiences to sit with, and share in the discomfort of the "other". AiD recontextualizes butoh movement as a tool for actors to safely embody characters, while serving as a voice for disadvantaged communities.

Even in popular theatre, it is incredibly important for actors to have a set of tools that will allow them to step into the shoes of a variety of different characters—especially those who seem morally questionable—without judging the character, or jeopardizing their emotional health. This is true, perhaps even more so, for actors who work with theatre for social change, as they are often representing real people and communities while rising awareness around the issues these people face. With this work it is both necessary to approach character as objectively as possible, while also supporting the over-arching message being communicated through performance (ex. the prison industrial complex, lgbtq+ rights, etc...). Preliminary research on widely used acting techniques has guided the development of the AiD process. For instance, Michael Chekov believed the actor should experience a dual conscieneness while performing; allowing them to both see the world from the perspective of their character while maintaining artistic control with the ability to continually critique ones process. The high physical demand of Jerzy Growtowski's method was coften coupled with imagery to springboard the imagination in order to manifest honest physical and emotional character development. In contrary, AiD draws from butoh exercizes that certainly elicit similar experiences as mentioned above, and then challenges those outcomes even further. AiD uses choreographing processes from butoh to help actors, who are certainly in privlidged positions, approach characters through a process of transformatively embodying injustice in order to see the world from the perspective of those for whom they are speaking. The highly physical and meditative aspects present in butoh allow actors to root their emotional journeys within the movement, and therefore release themselves of that emotional baggage when necessary.