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  • 20.11.2017

    How Butoh, the Japanese Dance of Darkness, Helps Us Experience Compassion in a Suffering World

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      Butoh is now being taught to Zen students, prisoners, and others as a way to acknowledge difficult emotions.

      Butoh [bu-tō], often translated as “Dance of Darkness,” rose out of the ashes of post-World War II Japan as an extreme avant-garde dance form that shocked audiences with its grotesque movements and graphic sexual allusions when it was introduced in the 1950s.

      Indeed, many people are still disturbed by the intensity and rawness of Butoh. Performers move awkwardly and slowly with shuffling steps, looking more like zombies than dancers. Their faces twitch; their bodies shake with tension. The acknowledgement of Butoh as a significant art form is now firmly established in Europe and America in addition to Japan. At the same time, the “practice” of Butoh has grown as a way, like meditation or yoga, to gain self-awareness and wake up.


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