Workshops and Classes

So far I have taken most of my classes with Yoshito Ohno and Natsu Nakajima. By meeting people in these workshops, I have found out about other classes and performances around Tokyo.  Even though I get most of my information via translations from bilingual students, I feel I am gaining some valuable information that I can work on for years. But I am sure much is lost because of the language barrier.

I took class with a Sankai Juku dancer that seemed like Martha Graham gone butoh; I probably will not go back to that one. But I did take a class with Seisaku, who studied with Yukio Waguri and is an excellent teacher.  His work is based on emptiness in the body, not images, and a new way of defining space. The first half of the class is a thorough physical warm-up conducted by Yuri, a modern /ballet trained dancer who has been drawn to butoh.

Natsu’s classes start with Noguchi Seitai, exercizes using massage, breathing techniques, and physical training. In her creative work she encourages use of dance elements (space, time and energy) as well as blending abstract dance movement with theatre actions.  She claims that Hijikata believed that butoh was pure theatre.

Yoshito’s classes involve no warm-up, so I have to arrive early to get these old bones moving. His style is warm, generous, and encouraging filled with imagistic suggestions which are quite poetic and inspiring. He often quotes and imitates both Hijikata and Kazuo and modestly refers to himself as shadow or frame. Though in his 70’s, he is still a vibrant force, touring the world, performing and teaching.

After all classes there is social time. Yoshito always serves tea or wine and snacks. Often everyone goes out for drinks and delicious Japanese food served family style. I love this country, its customs, and most of all its people!

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About Julie

The Asheville Butoh Festival is directed by the Asheville area butoh dancer, choreographer, and teacher Julie Becton Gillum. As founder of three modern dance companies, and ultimately Legacy Butoh, Gillum has been creating, performing and teaching dance in the US, France, Cuba and Mexico for over 40 years. Gillum’s primary form of artistic expression has become butoh, which she has been practicing, performing, and teaching since 1998. She has created and presented major pieces in the genre at a variety of venues in New York, Chicago, San Francisco and Mexico. Gillum was awarded the prestigious 2009 Choreography Fellowship by the North Carolina Arts Council, which enabled her to travel to Japan to study with renowned butoh masters Yoshito Ohno, Natsu Nakajima, Akaji Maru, and Seisaku.