Miyabi Ichikawa

It is without a doubt that the third generation of Butoh, Ko Murobushi, and Sankaijuku's performances in Europe have something striking and leave traces on the cultural history that is the Japonism at the end of this century. For the first time in five years, Ko Murobushi held a performance at Studio 200 at Seibu Ikebukuro. On the flyer said “I have been allowed the opportunity to dance for the first time in five years. In memory of Tatsumi Hijikata and his abrupt passing...” Surely, no one can deny that Hijikata's death held a lot of meaning for Butoh. From a pessimistic point of view, some may say that Hijikata's death quickened the decline of Butoh. In any case, it is certain that the critical attitude in looking at works of Butoh all the while calculating their distance from Hijikata has been ongoing these past few years.

Murobushi brought in about ten tons of salt to the studio and started to dance on it. If one considers how salt takes in moisture, brings pain to the body, and has properties of preventing decomposition, aside from the white visual the salt spread out on the stage gives, Murobushi may be symbolising the immortality that rejects decomposition. With the salt in front, Murobushi sits down on a chair, and giving a sharp look, he humps his back and moves his hands as if he were walking while groping in the darkness. His costume is a white skirt with a thick overcoat on top. Murobushi convulses with his entire body and spasms. Sweat and spasms are produced by the fear of transformation and becomingness. An ambivalent power can be seen at work between the sharpness of his gaze and the gesture of his body. Those gaps expand, and Murobushi probes into the space at last, attempting to materialise the unity of his body, and holds his arms and hands out to the side. He gropes with his hands, slowly but surely. There is a conflict between Button and body, and Murobushi attempts to stand at the point where articulation and non-articulation comes into contact. It is a mutual violation of style and de-style.

This first part is about twenty minutes long; there were several hair-raising and stimulating moments. While it seems that the body is filled with style and goes back to the body itself, this repetition is intermittently accompanied by polyrhythm and occurs like intermittent convulsions. Hijikata’s lifelong theme was the extraction of the body that interlaces with substance and is engraved with the shadow of substance—In what way is this related to Murobushi? Most likely, there is no notion of the body being partial to substance in Murobushi. His point of contact between articulation and non-articulation is, from the fact of it being a point, is critical and unstable even, or rather, belongs to an abstract space.

Yet, why is his broad back bent like a curved back? If one thinks back to Hijikata, his dotera and crab crouch were connected, but in Murobushi’s case, as if to counter the body blows that strike the front of his body, he draws his body back and attempts to minimize the power of the attack. Murobushi stands up, raises his arms, separates the salt accumulated on the floor with his feet, makes a trench and attempts to advance forward. One can see a strong-willed and direct act here. He falls down, the stage blacks out, and comes out once more from a different place. Then it blacks out once more. His direct act of digging a trench brings distress to the entire body, and he falls down. The eternal properties of salt are tested by this act. After the blackout, Murobushi runs off towards the light of the doorway.

The dance that has him lying down half-naked in the second part is the result of everything that was done in the first part, and the twenty minutes of the first part was plenty enough for me. As Butoh in Japan was reaching the state of folly and becoming a large spectacle, Murobushi’s work was a bold attempt to bear witness to the becoming of gesticulation. Perhaps the core could be better seen by distancing oneself from Japan.

Vinci Ting
April 11, 1986
Asahi Jurnal