Sunday, January 9, 2011

FreeSTYLE on 1/1/11 and beyond

Kazuo Ohno used the term "FreeStyle" very often when instructing us in butoh dance at his studio (photos here of Momo dancing "freestyle" in the Kazuo Ohno Dance Studio by Nobuko Shiga).
Now that we are investigating The Styles with MomoButoh Dance Company from 1/1/11 till 2/2/11; echos of his directions are repeating inside me. What is it to dance "freestyle?" On 1/1/11 at 11:11 am I initiated a dance improvisation ceremony to celebrate this New Year of E11evens. It included appearances by invited friends moving in all speeds, levels, styles, emotions and directions. It included passers by like a bird pecking at the vomit likely left by someones New Year's Eve revelation and a coffee cup carrying crow who knocked it percussively on the pavement; providing a soundtrack for our dance along with a jumbo jet flying low & slow over 11th street (we were on 10th & Pike) in Seattle. At about 6 min in, I encountered an unused cigarette and crumbled its contents in a circle on a dumpster, offering tobacco with prayers for a good year for all my relations. It was a magical and totally unplanned 11 minutes that culminated with dancing in an underground (literally) painting studio of someone I met right there on the street during the dance. It was all filmed.

Sadly, I did not immediately dowload the footage of this event and now must learn from my delinquency & mistake. My flip video camera broke on 1/6/11 just before I attended the Picasso exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum. I sent in the broken camera for a replacement (Technical Side NOTE: They are doing this for me even though it is NOT under warrantee anymore because we found the original receipt and they say I am a "valued customer", cool!! --this is ONE reason I suggest all DailyDance practitioners get a FLIP camera). I asked them to retrieve the films "stuck" on the camera, and will post it here if they do. But this will likely never happen. So, please use your infinite imagination to re-create in "freestyle" what this dance ceremony might have appeared like there in the bright sunshine, in front of a horse trough turned bamboo garden planter and a drive shaft handled metal doorway with a wooden barrel for a light fixture and sheet metal for a sign closed club entryway. A very urban STYLE place to begin 2011 for sure. One of the few human passers by happened to be my good friend from the dance community -Louis Gervais...what a blessing to have the likes of him be one of my first spontaneous dance partners for 2011!! It is going to be a very fine and WILD year of FreeSTYLE indeed. Can't wait for 11/11/11 of course....

And, regarding the "Freestyle" that Kazuo Ohno would regularly call out for, I believe this may be the MOST difficult thing to do in butoh, dance and life. How can we truly be free? What does that even mean? How can we dance and act free of conditioning, ideas of right/wrong, good/bad, self imposed constraints on our spontaneously emerging actions and creativity? It would be as if we were unrestrained and totally available puppets of unfolding Creation. On 1/3/11 I may have experienced a tiny and ecstatic glimpse into this while sharing a trio improvisation score with improvisational dance luminaries John Dixon and Karen Nelson. After an afternoon of Contemplative Dance Practice we discussed an experimental score whereby the only "rules" were to follow your "embodied impulses" and when finding you were NOT doing that (such as following a mental thought or idea of what to do/not do) then to PAUSE and begin again only from an embodied impulse. This may sound quite vague but what emerged was a rare revelatory and amazingly fulfilling experience for all of us. We shared a freestyle dance for about 30 minutes of what we agreed was almost total presence and direct communion with BEING (self, each other, god?) self-emerging in action through the body. I felt perhaps that this was what Kazuo had been trying to convey when he would repeat "FREESTYLE!!" (in English) over and over while we improvised during his lessons.

I would love to hear/see what you think/see is "FreeSTYLE"...I would love to hear what happened for you if you try the meditation/movement improvisation score I explained above. please offer a comment or blog response if you are moved. Thank you.

If you have not yet SUBSCRIBED to receive the MomoButoh Dance Company article posts by email please do it NOW in the little form on the upper right side of this page. If you like what you see here, please consider SUPPORTING our work by participating with making a DONATION at the PayPal button on upper left side. Even micro-funds of 5 or 10 bucks are great help to pay for necessary admin costs to maintain this site, mailing lists and the like. BIG BIG THANK YOU!


  1. i look forward to the challenge of embodying 'the embodied impulse' as a practice - thank you for sharing it and the reminder of the teachings of your sensei kazuo ohno... freestyle! can we ever attain true free-dom from our preset patterns of movement and being? something i long for, however... to dance free-from-style from the soul and not from the head...

  2. The movement from within, without consious thought...that is very powerful stuff as I discovered in my first butoh session. It is for me both empowering and humbling, to have some force undirected move me...

  3. i really love these photos