Twisting and twirling on the floor, Yuko Kaseki gives a testing time to our photographer’s bid to catch her right on camera. Unpredictably agile, she switches poses in a fraction of a second. We have no other way, but to wait for what she’d strike next. The Butoh dancer of Japanese origin was on her maiden visit to Kerala, conducting a workshop in Thiruvananthapuram. She stood up, gathered her disciples around her in a circle. She made them scream out loud, laugh their hearts out, and flicker the emotions in a lucid but rapid pace. Yuko never stands apart, she sets the rhythm in and does whatever the people surrounding her do.
An artist residency programme in Goa brought Yuko to India and subsequently to Kerala. One of the participants at her workshop invited her to come to his hometown and here she is. Performing across the world, Yuko, like her dance form, does not restrict herself to definitions. “I am not a missionary of Butoh. I am more of a cultivator, watering each seed to grow,” she beams.
A dance theatre from the post-World War II Japan, Butoh was devised by its pioneers Hijikata Tatsumi and Ohno Kazuo in a bid to free the traditional dance in the country from western influences. Yuko has a lengthy back story, that dates 26 years back, a story of migration. Captivated by the dance form, Yuko shifted base to Berlin in Germany. “My teacher in Japan moved to Germany and I followed her for studies,” she says. Basically a theatre person, the call of Butoh came to her at a point when she was in a dilemma to connect the acting space to outer world. “Then it was difficult for me to connect to text and look for the physical world. I saw one Butoh dancer. There was space for experimental theatre in it. I started searching for my teacher,” she rewinds. In the journey, she could “dig and cultivate body as a frontier to find out untapped filed of emotions, memories and sensations.” In Berlin, she studied Butoh dance and performing art in HBK Braunschweig with Anzu Furukawa and danced in her company Dance Butter Tokio and Verwandlungsamt in 1989 to 2000. The year 1995 was very happening, when she co-founded the dance company ‘Cokaseki’ with Marc Ates.
With solo and ensemble performances, Yuko performed across nations, meeting new cultures, people and identities. She has extensively toured to Europe, Taiwan, Korea, Malaysia, Thailand, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, Australia, Russia, Burkina, Faso and the US. If asked what she propagates, this could be expected in return. “I perform myself. People have very different backgrounds. I see what the necessity is. I do the workshop explaining how the inner and outer composition of the physical world is like. There’s a very basic condition to build depending on each person’s power for creativity. I share knowledge,” explains Yuko.
Yuko finds Butoh never restricted itself to formats. Everyone has come up with their versions, defining it the way they like it. Yuko has hers. “Butoh is evolving. All over the world, people carry the idea but with a very different approach. Each Butoh dance is different. I respect the beginning and my efforts are to find my own vocabulary through improvisation. It is amazing to dance in a different world. Some outside force makes me dance. It’s an amazing feeling,” says Yuko. The basic necessity to learn Butoh, she would say is the realisation of one’s connection to the ground they stay upon and the ability to communicate with the inner-self.
She’d call any amazing movement a Butoh, the way someone walks so beautifully, a well-coordinated musical concert or the soothing song of a bird. The limited days of visit to Kerala has left Yuko with little choice to travel around or enjoy the pleasures. Still she remains spellbound with nature’s bounties, the sounds of birds, animals and the nature she sees around Cameo Light House, where she was for three days. She fondly narrates a chance meeting with a Mohiniyattam dancer, who paid a visit during the workshop. “She performed for me a very short sequence, showing facials expressions. Her gestures were telling stories. It was amazing,” she signs off....