Batarita and Butoh – a Hungarian artist’s relationship with Japanese culture
Butoh, or ankoku butoh, the „dance of darkness”, evolved in Japan after its defeat in World War II. Its first performance was Kinjiki (“Forbidden Colors”) in 1959 performed by the founder of butoh, Tatsumi Hijikata, Kazuo Ohno and his son, Yoshito Ohno. The piece dealt with the topic of homosexuality, which was a taboo subject, not only in Japan, but all over the world. Hijikata’s disciples, Ko Murobushi and Carlotta Ikeda were the first to bring butoh to Europe, presenting this incendiary movement of Japanese avant-garde.
Butoh, taking tradition into account while breaking away from it, dissolves conventions while compelling the viewer, along with the creator, to embrace an entirely new and different viewpoint. In order to explore taboo themes, it introduces a novel form of movement, in addition to ironic and grotesque imagery. It is a characteristic of butoh’s philosophy, that the performers lose their identity, their body turns into a channel, which is then able to transform into anything and everything.
Batarita, a choreographer, dancer, costume designer, actress, director, festival director, and butoh's ambassador to Hungary came into contact with the genre in 2002. She won first place at the Solo-Duet Festival’s choreography competition, held at Trafó House of Contemporary Arts, with her performance Tiéd ("Yours"). The piece was also seen by Carlotta Ikeda, who, in addition to her congratulations added: "You are a butoh dancer." That was the beginning of their student-teacher relationship. However, it soon became clear that what she could learn from Ikeda, she has already been doing instinctively for years,.
In 2004, as a fellow of DanceWeb in Vienna, she met Ko Murobushi, whom she chose as her master, and to whom she returned to study year after year.
In 2005, she was invited by the Asia-Europe Foundation as a choreographer to Tokyo to participate in the Pointe to Point project. At the age of six, as a young folk dancer, she had already come in contact with Japanese culture, through Japanese guests visiting Hungary, but this was her first real encounter with the country and the continent itself. By the time the plane landed, she felt as if she had arrived home, and this feeling hasn’t changed since.
In 2006, she won a Unesco-Aschberg Scholarship to Bangkok, where she also performed her piece Tiéd at the birthday celebration of His Majesty, the King of Thailand.
In 2007, French-American choreographer, Susan Buirge, invited her to Paris to study kagura (the spiritual music and dance of the Shinto religion) from Tadashi Ishikawa, as one of the first 7 non-Japanese people, to renew contemporary dance with this concept later.
In 2008, she received the Japan Foundation’s Uchida Fellowship, which is awarded annually to a single artist around the world. This allowed her to live in Tokyo for a short time, to study at the Kazuo Ohno Studio, under Yoshito Ohno, and to meet the more than 100-year-old and bedridden Kazuo Ohno. That year she performed with Yoshito Ohno and several of his disciples in Tokyo, and later began working with the master on a duo that they presented in 2009 entitled Translucent at the National Dance Theater, at the Butoh Festival, founded by Batarita.
In 2010, she met Ko Murobushi again in Vienna, where they decided to create a joint piece that they started working on in Paris, which was then followed by a series of premieres in Budapest, Krakow and Bratislava in 2011. During these two years, the two creators become friends for life.
In 2009, in addition to her work as a creator and a performer, Batarita launched a biannual festival that became a cultural bridge, connecting Asia and Europe; first under the name Butoh Festival in 2009, later changing its title to Here is Japan in 2011 and 2013, and finally to BODY.RADICAL from 2015 onwards.
(written by Batarita)