What is Butoh?

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A butoh dance by Shinjo within Japanese tea house installation by Chris Ezzell

Reading prior to dance by Piper Leigh

Live and recorded music by Kenneth Lawrence and Larry Lawson

On Butoh Dance: 

Butoh is a modern Japanese dance form arising from post WWII sentiment to find artistic expression within Japan ‘s own roots. The quality of Butoh which sets it apart from other dance forms is the quality the Japanese call “MA” , or the interval/space between. The silence between notes, the stillness between movements.  It is the fullness within this space which brings the movements and notes their offering. 


“It is not Butoh if there are only fancy movements. Butoh is “MA” and the movements are only tools which connect this ’MA’ essence”   – Katsura Kan

Butoh can touch others in a way which is not explicable, but hits people on a gut level.   The quality of movement in this state of mind carries a sense of timelessness and spacelessness, transporting the viewer to a different sense of reality.

Tea Ceremony is another art form which is a container for this essence, connecting with others through a kind of offering. Offering tea through the beauty of the ceremony and the environment connects everyone involved with this deep essence bringing everyone to a timeless place. The Tea Master lets go of him/herself and allows the movements to flow through this ‘empty’ body. It is the same in Butoh dance. The body ‘empties’ and allows the essence to flow through.


KENNETH LAWRENCE:  hand made percussion instruments, Noh drum, flute

LARRY LARRICK:    shakuhachi(japanese flute)


Shinjo studied Butoh in Japan with Katsura Kan , Min Tanaka, and Kazuo Ohno. She peformed with ‘Saltimbanques’, touring throughout Asia before returning to Seattle where she formed a butoh group, ‘ stillwater ‘. Wanting to deepen in the essence of Butoh, she returned to Japan to study zen meditation with Harada Roshi. She was ‘caught in the net’ and stayed 11 years and was ordained in 2004. She escaped with minor injuries and now resides on Vashon Island .