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My Passage Through Butoh

I have always wondered what it is that impacts the inner self when a human being witnesses and connects with an expressive-extraordinary act, whether it is in the mundane, religious or artistic territory. Leaving behind thoughts, interpretations, or aesthetic judgments, a powerful and luminous energy flow opens, and we are touched, sensorially-emotionally-spiritually. We vibrate and feel that we are what is being contemplated, or part of it, that there is no distance between both realities.

The above of course depends on our state of consciousness, predisposition and inner silence. It relies on the lack of expectation from the one who witnesses, but also on the depth or intention from the one who exposes themself and offers to an audience or in their own solitude. In the end, the conviction remains in me that it is possible to summon multiple energies and make them flow together in a scenic act where something magical is manifested. This happened to me repeatedly witnessing the offering of Japanese butoh master Kazuo Ohno. 

And that “impact” has been precisely the medullary cavity in the bones of my creative search until this moment. It is also the motive to try to describe here part of a journey from my childhood to the present day that I have shared with many students and colleagues along the path. I have been asking myself constantly how to open access–even if it is for a few moments–to the pure regenerative state that is a part of the mystery of life (and surely also of death) through a ritual act in which the deepest of being is exposed from a state of innocence, humility and surrender.

It is therefore important to me to highlight terms such as sublime, uncertain, ethereal, magical, mystical, transcendent, extraordinary, mysterious, imperceptible, ephemeral, cosmic and ungraspable, by reflecting around human expression manifested through any creative act, whether it is called artistic or not. This is what could really be found in the foundation of my searching.

Since I was a child, I was influenced by the dazzling forces of creative quasi-religious manifestations, where the pagan and the traditional were mixed, allowing a glimpse of the primal substance that gave rise to them. I also experienced this through the popular forms that I was finding around me, in between the mining population of Tlalpujahua, Michoacan, and in the brave neighborhood of Santa Julia in old Mexico City in the sixties. These memories defined my impulse to find alternative ways of expression that included the body: its capacity for creative transformation and healing within a community.

Maybe what most affected my child sensitivity was the authenticity and surrender I found in my mother´s religious expression–I became a witness of her vehemence and devotion–which represented a great mystery that reverberated in me and fed my sensitivity over the years.

I was not only an observer, I also dared to participate. Because I felt what was expressed inside of me, I felt it was me dancing, let´s say inside those bodies–regardless of their gender–that moved in unusual ways in those “scenarios.” I wanted to experience with the others the emergence of that force that was inexplicable until then.

It was in this way that from an early age the sense of movement in my body made me consider that dance is in itself a sacred and powerful language. It allows us to transmit the energy loads we carry from our origin and those we have accumulated during our life process. It also gives us access to deep subjective states of mind that are specific to each individual, but that at the end of the day leads us to connect, and reflect too, in the collective unconscious, bringing it into conscious awareness and thus touching the transpersonal.

In 1975 I encountered one of my greatest Mexican guides: Antonio Cué. He guided me into new realms of experimentation such as corporal therapy, in particular bioenergetics, which in the 70´s was a hip sui generis collective therapeutic modality. Bioenergetics was just the beginning of ever unfolding encounters in the vast terrain of body activation and its ritual expression. Revelations and confirmations about the mystery of energy in states of increased awareness emerged little by little and took me to a deeper search of human behavior through its corporal languages. Through my guides I was invited into a shamanic practice which opened a most crucial understanding of the universal principals of exchange; that if truly listening to these forces, we are forced to pay a fee, to give back and return as a real energetic offering the gifts which we receive. It is too easy to confuse ourselves and adopt the exploitative capitalist model which does not understand how to take care of these gifts. They necessitate an understanding of relationship which must be lived, and cannot be appropriated by the mind.

The limited state of a being that inhabits a repressed, submitted or domesticated body was another important confrontation in my life, and the immediate challenge was the pursuit of a way to liberate it. This is how I got to establish a bridge between physical expression and different levels of individual and collective consciousness, which allowed me to activate or deactivate the mechanisms of self-repression and self-deconstruction, generated by the socio economic-cultural environment and defined by patriarchal patterns of submission.

Since then I assumed that the portentous movement of a body that opens and manifests itself–in any of its expressions–does not necessarily aim for artistic recognition, because it is in itself a way of liberation, healing and transformation. It is a vibrational lab of emotional loads from our origin that can be poured into the exterior, or become a motive of intimate exploration to the interior.

My time at the university enhanced my focus on community. With the lenses of social sciences and the study of the dominant economic and political systems, I understood that in great measure they have supported the repetition of a cultural–even artistic–protocol, taking us far from our complex Mexican roots and traditions, and have blocked more evolved and free manifestations. This process made it more evident to me the degrading social condition of the majority and the need of alternatives of expression before our bodies burst, get sick or annihilate themselves.

During this period I recognized that the creative act could be a kind of tool and ritual for the liberation of the being inside the body, where through an awareness of the emotional and psychological loads we can channel and process what is being repressed. I also understood that the term “artistic” oriented under certain aesthetic principles was focused many times in stimulating egocentric and vain schemes, rather than being a fundamental human task, assumed from a state of precariousness and risk, coming from one’s own personal intimacy.

In this time, I constantly wondered, how to open the “Pandora’s Box” that we all carry? How do we go to the guts of being, inquire and bring to light what is hidden in the inner shadow. It was in 1985 that I saw the first images of butoh, hipper expressive photographic exhibits of Kazuo Ohno and Tatsumi Hijikata. They intrigued me beyond any other artistic reference I had witnessed. I couldn’t imagine in that moment that a couple of years later I could witness something in which the inner strength, the ethereal and spiritual, was summoned by Natsu Nakajima and her companion Yuriko Maezawa, beyond the form or the act of representation. In the dance piece Niwa – The Garden, they danced a rite of access to a space of magic and mystery, outside the canons of conventional time.

This first experience with Japanese butoh was just a curious preamble in which Natsu, an apprentice of the two pillars of this tradition–Hijikata and Ohno–opened the door for butoh in Mexico in 1987, and most importantly for myself, Kazuo Ohno. I then had the privilege to witness him. The power of his fragility on the stage, almost as if he was actually dying right there and then, transformed my understanding of what is possible creatively. Also seeing Yoshito Ohno, his son and intimate support and companion, allowed me to access a state of expanded consciousness in these pure scenic offerings in 1989, The Dead Sea and Water Lilies, which were both sublime and charged with humility. It was The Festival Internacional Cervantino that brought these and many of the powerful works and artists of Japanese butoh to Mexico.

This encounter was a revelation to me, helping me to recognize that it is possible to establish a bond between body and spirit, between the physical and ethereal, between a logical narrative and the metaphorical. It went beyond the expectations of any other stage presentation and became a ritual act without boundaries. Through it I remembered the sense of the ritual “calling” I had witnessed in my past, opening access into the ancestral and collective magic.

I consider that beyond the suggestion of Japanese butoh exists the possibility of an artistic approximation cultivated in a state of sacred creativity, in which the human being becomes only an open expressive channel, including to the dark side of the psyche, elaborating luminous energetic forms through a primal state. I believe that we all have the possibility to access these non-egocentric expressive states, cultivating authenticity and our innately attractive quality of being.

In 1992, when I decided to ask for help from the Japan embassy in Mexico to go to “study” with the Ohno teachers, I assumed that my basic interest to go there was to find a key, a resource allowing me to understand how this magic was summoned through the conditions of daily life in which people like Kazuo Ohno lived, and where he nurtured that impulse to offer himself from the most fragile of his body and spirit. While it was this “spirit” of butoh, it was also no more than the deep access to the extraordinary spirit that inhabits each one of our bodies.

Now I know that it is not necessary to speak about a butoh spirit. It would be like speaking of ancient initiatory shamanic traditions, and the protocols which must be assumed in order to participate, and without which, one cannot pass through. It is in this sense a test for you and the qualities of your consciousness and perception. It is the soul and spirit in each human being–whose qualities are undecipherable but which ephemerally belong to all of us–that impacts us and makes us feel our original human aliveness.

It is primarily the willingness coming from the depth and commitment of each body that allows these extraordinary energies to be summoned. In the case of Kazuo Ohno, they were connected to his devotion and religious beliefs–paradoxically Catholic–and including I imagine, the Buddhist influence and the weight of ancestral loads coming from Japanese culture, where he could maintain a sense of spirituality that emanated from his skin.

I think that for the pioneers of Japanese butoh, the strongest catalyst of such a penetrating search, was to mend themselves from the devastation of war, keeping their breath after the defeat and passing through their submission to the western culture to recover from their “ashes,” a new life impulse.

For the first years of inquiry in the almost inaccessible butoh world, there was a time in which I couldn’t distinguish the differences between the path explored by Kazu Ohno, to go to the inner being and dance from there–just feeling from the “heart”–versus the path proposed by Tatsumi Hijikata of dominating an expressive form to its last consequences, and just through exhaustive rigor find a limit and touch the essence, the subtleness of being.

It always called my attention to know that Tatsumi Hijikata was said to have created ankoku butoh  as a form exclusively for Japanese–those who had been affected somehow by the war. I consider this was a pretext for the pioneers of butoh to rediscover and reconsider the actual power of the human expression that sustains the wild and ancient shamanic roots in Japan. It was a great initiation for those who were able to recover the energy of life in the face of death, and completely change their paradigm of expression. The power of this expression could be a metaphor for the ability of the Japanese to survive, not only physically, but spiritually.

Nowadays I think many have heard about the uneasiness of some of the second generation butoh-kas, in particular of Min Tanaka and Ko-Murobushi asking to stop manipulating or using the term butoh in the way we have been using it in the west. I have been able to understand more and more, especially in seeing the attempts to reduce butoh to a series of clichés or styles of representation, the absurdity to appropriate the extravagant “idea” to be devastated from the terror of atomic war and cultural annihilation.

On the other hand, some of the Japanese chroniclers and scholars have referred to butoh in general, and by all means to ankoku butoh, as expressions that have passed… lived by the protagonists of its gestation in the two decades after World War II. In its time, I think butoh assumed a space of transgression and regeneration with the right to manifest, to disagree, and to rebel against everything. Then, it has remained only in the memory–as part of the cultural history of the Japanese people–because the conditions in which butoh arose ceased to be, and gave way to modern technological Japanese society.

During my first workshop with Natsu Nakajima, I noticed the inherent difficulty for her in transmitting something meaningful about butoh, that was not about a simple technique, form or body language. It was almost like a native person trying to explain to a modern white executive how to survive in the jungle. It was always present in her indications to go beyond the everyday movement, the learned technique, any mechanical response, and especially beyond any expectations of personal egocentrism involved in “learning” butoh. In particular for latin american people, the idea to “put away” our emotions, was almost incomprehensible. In some occasions she suggested that Japanese butoh was not for us. But whether through butoh or otherwise, the question remains, how is it possible to approach or explain the subtle, the ethereal and the ungraspable in the infinite mystery of human expression, which in some form, has been accessible to all human beings?

I started to comprehend that it was about something much deeper, that she couldn’t find precisely how to teach, but could still reveal through her own movement, thanks to the interior journey of “forgetting” herself, abandoning the need to be “seen” and not attempting to exhibit any movement only learned from the ego or mental pretension. At that moment a strong contradiction was generated in me: between the idea to enter our own depths, penetrate the shadow, touch the darkness of consciousness and ultimately our ground zero, and somehow “proving” that it had been “artistically” accomplished.

Then I asked, how could that mystical side really be summoned, which attracted me so much from the way the Ohnos and Natsu offered themselves through their dances. Did it also imply a lifetime of meditation, contemplation and inner silence?

Since then I think Natsu tried to open more ways to transmit this “state of being,” even using formal pre established sequences, similar to how it was seminated by the teacher Hijikata during his time. After several experiences under her direction I understood that it implied an arduous everyday labor to convince the objective mind to construct a bridge to sensitivity, spirituality, and a non egocentric consciousness, and forget about adopting butoh forms as a model.

Finally, in the year 1992 Mitsuyo Uesugui arrived in Mexico, who had been the assistant of Kazu Ohno for at least 10 years. Her presence was to me a watershed made evident through her workshop, where she shared the essential side of Japanese butoh from her perspective. She transmitted to me more about the mystical meaning–almost religious–she had found in butoh while assisting Kazuo Ohno. I could see how her soul expression emanated from a place of detachment from the body, from an intention to transmute and transform matter. Here I witnessed one of the powerful butoh metaphors “a body that dances, with the minimum energy, almost dead, stripped of ít´s physical egocentric attributes, and willing to express its liberation, its return to its origin, its infinite expansion, and surpassing the limits of civilized domestication.”

Thanks to her I discovered that just through this authentic surrender, far from pretensions and egocentric ambitions, a sublime expression could emerge, from which it was possible to communicate evolutionary and transcendental messages. In this “state of grace,” or what butoh terms a kind of “blank canvas,” exists the capacity to transmit by itself multiple if not infinite realities, not only elemental, but many others even with no name.

From that moment on there was an impulse activated in me to go to Japan to meet with the Ohnos and deepen in this evident but ungraspable realm. In the year 1993, waiting for a response to my petition for support, as a cultural exchange through the embassy of Japan in Mexico, the opportunity arose to participate with the renowned Japanese butoh group Byakko-sha. Under the direction of Isamu Osuka (one of the last disciples of Hijikata), Hibari to Nejaka was presented in the Anthropological Museum of Mexico. This was not only a privilege for me, but a unique access into the collective mystery of Japanese butoh shared by this group. It was a festive and at the same time mystical atmosphere in all aspects of the process, including the way the stage was prepared, how the makeup was applied, and the physical warming.

I became once more a witness to a very Japanese dynamic, as baffling as appealing for its uniqueness. Every minute that passed leading to the beginning of the presentation started to build a sense of ritual. I was trained briefly and efficiently to play the part of a “master of ceremonies” who was to cut the hair of an infant during the “play.” It was a leap into the abyss and the mouth of the dragon, and at the same time required a level of concentration which I had not yet experimented with. I was required to cultivate a state of stillness–feeling at my back the overwhelming force of the spectacle of Japanese butoh–propped up by a dazzling scenic technology, and above all by the surrender of a group of dancers, that looked as if they had just come out of a Buddhist monastery.

After a year and a half of waiting, I began to prepare myself for the possible encounter with the Ohnos, until finally the invitation arrived. But, the invitation was not to go to Yokohama to the Ohno studio, but to go to Yamanashi, and to train at the Body Weather Farm with the master Min Tanaka and his group Maijuku.

I received it with surprise. I knew the name of Min Tanaka by reference, but I really knew nothing about him. At the beginning of the three month workshop held in 1994, I discovered that the course was basically designed to take our bodies and our interiors, and push us to touch our absolute physical, mental and emotional limits.

I consider that the workshop of Tanaka could be reduced to one single objective: to crush the personal ego for the body to claudicate, for it to open the doors to the mysterious, and to the hidden in the subconscious. This occurred through the pressure and discipline exercised not only by him, but by each of his disciples, who acted as foreman for us to hit bottom.

Once the dynamic of ego crushing implemented in the first weeks was assumed, we wondered–by this time only half of us remained–when we were going to actually begin the real butoh training, as if it were about learning a movement technique. It was obvious that we were living in our own flesh the motto of Japanese butoh, to take one action to its final consequences. Here I can use the symbol of an “alchemical” process in which from the complex superficiality in our being we were able to distill and transform ourselves, until a drop of purity emerged from our interiors. It was about passing through the exacerbated emotions and thoughts, from tiredness and through surrender.

By the third month of the workshop there existed in me a more accepting state of submission. There was more clarity in the attention I put to any task in service to the group. In it I found another spiritual confirmation in Japan: to put oneself to the service of others, to reflect, feel, and mutually support each other to “survive” from the compassion summoned up in those states.

Daily training in the Min Tanaka community was based on agricultural work attending to the fields, attending to the animals, and ourselves. Slowly another training distinctive of Min Tanaka was included, the Muscles and Bones practice, which definitely allowed us to open, regenerate and increase our pelvic–abdominal energy in connection with each other and the ground.

I questioned, was the submission, acceptance, and surrender, the resulting qualities from which the butoh would eventually emerge? I couldn’t say that was “it,” however it was the way in which my being began to settle, since I intuited that something else would arise from this apparently oppressive dynamic. I could then look beyond my habitual patterns, my expectations, my artistic pretensions and completely give myself to a task of attention in the immediate.

I finally opened to moments of an expanded consciousness, assimilating states of great joy and inner peace. I recognized that the cultural frame of learning a technique was alien to what the Japanese proposed as a way of being in the present. Although, I also started to identify how patriarchal these patterns of submission to the teacher and the “sensei” were, even though it supported a connection to deep levels of devotion, which I believe have only been seen–as far as the West is concerned–in very traditional religious communities.

How can one accept those acts of submission if there is no Japanese blood running through one’s veins? I observed something unique in the Japanese bodies, how they reacted in a similar way and moved almost in unison. It was alluring in its refinement and subtlety. They acted with impeccability thanks to the control exercised. My question is then, is it possible to perform with such authenticity in the face of, and beyond, historical processes of acculturation.

Before concluding the cycle with Min Tanaka, I recapitulated for myself what was told to us about a state of no identity: of cultivating the anonymous being, inner emptiness, service to others, the expressive force of immobility, of letting go of masks and egos, and stopping emotional reactions. These all reminded me of Buddhist precepts that surely were alive for many Japanese that searched for the meaning of butoh in their own land.

At the end of the process when I was asked to dance in the butoh piece “The Ancient Woman,” it aligned with my state of surrender and regeneration at the time. I had the privilege to dance with the Maijuku group, by the side of Min Tanaka and his assistant teacher Isako Horikawa, whom I have to say was as extraordinary in daily life as on the stage. There, being in the town of Hakushu I started to wonder if butoh, in artistic terms, could really offer anything valuable that was not a result of surrender, daily life restrictions, and through it, the expansion of consciousness.

I was returned once more to the experiences in my childhood and youth when I was a witness to the spontaneous expressions emanating from the soul of people willing to open themselves, whether in my hometown Tlalpujahua, the barrios of Mexico City, in other indigenous ceremonies, or later, on a conventional stage, in the Ohno studio in Yokohama, or in the fields of the “Body Weather Farm.” I felt it was possible to express–from the heart–what affects us, what baffles us, what we can achieve, what we lack, what we want to transform, and our longing for well-being, freedom and joy.

Since 1994 the doors were open for me to meet with the Ohno teachers on different occasions, both in Japan and the United States, over a period of 20 years. Over time I let myself become guided by a subtle and feminine path, much less rigid and crushing than with Min Tanaka and Natsu Nakajima. Through this expanse of experience, I could easily dwell between the darkness and light within me. The work sessions in the Ohno studio were to me always a ritual, and not related to the idea of any butoh technique.

Even though many of the Japanese students and disciples of Kazu Ohno imitated him, he nourished the connection and intimacy with each individual in every class. He shared metaphorical and poetic suggestions, occasionally translated to English, so we could open ourselves and dance “freely” from our spirit and with a  sense of “hermandad” preserved in this small and openhearted guild.

Through the class we were summoning the collective energy, which he often used to offer us his dance, touching us by sharing this mysterious and magical calling to close each session. With no pretension, his precarious mobility–at once extraordinary and humble–was offered as a result of his long and deep transformation in life. It mesmerized me how he played the conventional roles of husband, father, soldier, and athletic teacher, while at the same time becoming one of the pillars of Japanese butoh. When he danced, it was nothing else but his soul opening to us, an exchange from which I am sure he was also nurtured.

On some occasions, when somebody asked Kazu Ohno what was the key, the path, or the method to unravel that interior and its magic, he answered saying that maybe the training was more in daily life as a practice for consciousness, than only in the physical training. Perhaps it resided in the attention and energy offered to every simple act of life, at doing any work, as small as it was, with maximum impeccability. It was the intent of seeing the cosmic, divine or extraordinary, especially in those acts which appear to have no relevance in our material and commercial concept of existence, that was the key.

Years after meeting Kazuo Ohno, and conversing about dance and life companions, we discussed the patience necessary in cultivating the spirit and internal being until we “ripen” or “age.” In order to really express the depth of the mystery that inhabits us, we must be intimate with our own silence, strange to the canons of corporal efficiency and vitality that is so demanded in the scenic world today. I think that the example of Kazuo Ohno should be inspiring for many young, or not so young dancers, to keep cultivating something that cannot be pretended or adjusted as if it were a new custom. This is, in my opinion, the sacred sustenance of dance.

To me, the Ohnos represent the more open and universal aspect of Japanese butoh, which they also transmitted and bequeathed to humanity on their pilgrimage around the world. They offered through the metaphor of the ephemeral life of a flower, a fragile and beautiful symbol of transformation embodying the cycle of life and death, and the substance that allows human beings to evolve–generating a high heart vibration to the very end.

Since 1996 I have been sharing an approach of creative exploration that at first I had to call Butoh Ritual Mexicano (BRM) when I was invited to participate in different butoh events and festivals in and out of Mexico (Germany, France, Spain, Canada, Brasil, New Zealand, but mainly in the United States). I adopted the name butoh without really having the pretension to represent any Mexican concept of butoh. In the 90s we were just a few Mexican “dancers” trying to deepen in Japanese butoh through our own peculiar approach.

For the last couple of years, I have decided to continue sharing a practice to help the liberation of our corporal expression from a wider and more holistic lens, for the people interested in going beyond an established or fashionable artistic form and into an authentic and essential manifestation of being. I still use the acronym BRM, but with a more open frame: Body Ritual Movement.

I have always known that human creativity can be an inspiration for others, but that in the field of the transpersonal it has to do with a ritual act of calling, of surrendering and manifesting towards the collective. As I have already said, I was witness to the extraordinary expression of the Ohnos, Natsu and her companion Yuriko, of Min Tanaka partnering with Hisako Horikawa, and the impactful presence and collective power of Byakko-sha. I found in all of them–at some point–a sense of prayer that from the energy of a community can arise a ritual of gratefulness and the celebration of life.

In my mind, the basic mechanism and most efficient way of learning something practical during childhood is related to limitation and repetition. I see that many followers of Japanese butoh, not just in Mexico, are satisfied with doing this; taking in corporal mannerisms which are only superficially linked with butoh. In many cases it is just a search for the recognition of the butoh-ka community in order to acquire a more fashionable identity. But when we know that Japanese butoh is the result of a complexity of conditions that obviously involve a geographical and cultural origination and influence–as specific as the archipelago of Japan and their vast traditions, including the shamanic ones–we should reconsider everything.

I know that it is thanks to all the encounters with Japanese guides that my being could nurture a different way, not butoh and not Japanese, but neither Mexican. Here I can attempt to call upon the universality of being human beyond the borders imposed by bloody conquests, in favor of deep body expression from the interior of each individual with whom I have had the privilege to share life and dance with over the last 25 years, in particular with people living in Mexico and in the United States.

Here, I am talking about the expression of that natural state of grace in each one of us, with our respective origins and cultural ways. I think that state of infinite expression of being is the most valuable thing we have, and that it must be in service to others and to our collective healing.

Cultural scenes in the world have made way to all kinds of expressions, including the most extravagant and decadent, as part of a mercantile tendency that favors artistic hyper consumerism. From there, superficial guidelines and stale paradigms are maintained, mainly based on the differences between the artist and the spectator, the one who has the resources to to see “great shows,” and the one who does not, the one that exhibits and the one who watches, the one who is on a pedestal because they have trained themselves, and the one who would like to be, but cannot. Then perhaps, and as a manner of protesting, any person deserves to go up on “stage” to show themselves, to demand even from a crushed ego, to be acknowledged.

In the case of what is commonly understood as butoh dance I wonder, could I compare it to seeing a good ballet performance versus an imitation of ballet? Who would have to give the parameters for knowing if it is butoh dance or an imitation of Japanese butoh?

If the prevailing conception of butoh in the present, is that anyone has the right and the possibility to dance butoh… and if it is in this sense the “newest modern dance form,” perhaps it should define its codification and aesthetic parameters even further. I consider that all human beings should have the social right to be artists and to enjoy the collective creativity in an environment which is not determined by mercantile manipulation. In this sense I view butoh rather, as a seed of inspiration to touch our limits and live our own flowering bodies. Because in the end we are all weird, abnormal, dysfunctional misfits and rebellious spirits, we have the right to express it. I think this reflects our decaying reality in which we know that in the interior of each body there is a voice unhappy with life as it is, and with that impotence shouts and wants to save itself from remaining in the shadow.

From another perspective, we could assume the term butoh as a symbol that represents an access into that sacred space in our bodies and minds–the psyche or soul–to be able to expose and express ourselves with more clarity and with a deep respect to all the original founders and pioneers of Japanese butoh.

There is much to do in the space of individual evolution to affect the immense space of collective consciousness; there is a long path to walk and multiple wounds to heal. I think the power of the expression of the body will remain to be–as long as we do not turn into automatons–our point of departure to evolve together and care for each other and the land.

From my life experience I can conclude, saying with all clarity, that the stylistic forms, the established corporal languages, the techniques, the methods to access our interior, the texts, the symbols, and even the metaphors of Japanese butoh, have to be seen as resources at the service of our expression and not the other way around.

I could tell the young and perhaps anxious, that if they wish to explore the spaces of the shadow, of the unconscious–which can be very useful as well as delicate–to do so with the help of a guide focused primarily on the evolution of the whole being. Exposing the interior as a level of intimacy may be a creative act, but will not necessarily result in an artistic product.

Potentially each human being from their place is a thread in the evolutionary web, that is activated first thanks to its individual manifestation, which then strengthens through its integration with others, reinforcing equality, dignity and freedom.

-BRM, Body Ritual Movement
(From INBA Dazaria Magazine #54, July 2018)

Photography by Indira Perczek
Translated by Marina Mohar
Edited by Christopher Mankowski
Written by Diego Pinon


If someone is asking me about where I am in the present moment as a part of the evolutionary process in life, I am left with the fragility and power of my precarious body, which began to open to me since my childhood. Truly the artistic side of this process is not relevant anymore in terms of success, whether as a dancer, performer, or even in the teaching field. The evolutionary path symbolizes an elementary pilgrimage I have had as a metaphor for a constant state of transformation–of integration and adaptation–where the physical body has been only an energetic channel to cultivate and support the capacity to LOVE as the main privilege to be alive.

I can only offer to my partners in this existence a testimony of the enormous capacity of the human consciousness of the heart–including holding the shadow side–as an opportunity to get into this particular, collective pilgrimage, until we could integrate more and more of the transpersonal realm.

I also can confirm how both sides of us should be included as alternatives to heal mentally, emotionally and physically through the body expression. It is a fundamental departing point to make the bridge into the cosmic seed inside us, which we need each other to cultivate.

We should acknowledge also, the hardest frame and trap we are involved in which was built from the social and cultural egocentric expectations to be successful. This accumulation of memories, charges, domestication and ideological pressures at some point could cause us to betray ourselves in order to be acceptable to these expectations, and the systems which promote them. We try to adjust ourselves to put on the costume that will make us be the “same” and look like the predominant egocentric models.

I still am rebellious when I get into the aesthetic field of dance surrounded with all these established parameters. I always look back into my origin to remember the sacred nature of body movement beyond codification and paradigms; I need to continue recovering my expression in order to change and transform the realities that these costumes no longer fit, and somehow gently pass through this skin into the next.

What I carry on until this moment I have received through the essential reflexive practices in relationship with other human beings. All of these last 25 years of exploration and “training” in and abroad Mexico permitted me to redeem just the sacred healing sense of these acts of intimate ritual expression.

Classical religions use the term ritual, and they try to establish a narrow way to define the access into divinity or sacredness by a membership. But I think this sacredness is present in all cultures all over the world. We should recreate our own present rituals dancing in freedom to connect over and over with the meaningful and symbolic side of our nature. The ritual doesn’t rely on any particular side or color or mood or tradition or language or race. Every human being could have the powerful wisdom and intuition to catalyze their own alchemical way to integrate the holistic perception of the high and humble vibration we carry.

Then I believe I have the right to keep guiding, and to reclaim the term GUIDE as the Japanese term sensei implies, as something accessible and necessary for us all to embody in our own lives. Just in this sense we can support those behind us on this pilgrimage, in the same way we are held by those ANCESTORS who came before us. Through this CONTAGIOUS process we can activate the real impulse to not simply be alive and survive according to commercial modernistic terms, but to feel again the electrical impulses from the bottom of our feet to our pelvis and heart and beautiful flowering brains.

The questions living in me right now are:

How do we trust in our own sweet-spiritual warriors?… The animal spirit inside of us, the spiritual protector and its guidance?… Maybe we are still afraid to access into it, but I am pretty sure, ready to embody it!

What does it mean to transform our dogmatic spiritual beliefs, and live into collective, creative and intuitive visionary acts?

Could the archetype of androgyny be in this case a guide toward our future, helping us to integrate and achieve reconciliation with all our multiple realities that have the right to exist and flower beyond the rigidifying constructs of domestication and oppression?


Diego invites you into this container and path of inquiry that has developed through his many years of experience guiding groups and facilitating experimental explorations. He has been weaving the shamanic traditions of his roots in Mexico with bioenergetics, and his profound encounters with ritual theater, dance, and Japanese butoh, as a symbolic seed for creative liberation in daily life, even beyond the stage.

We can take the hint from our ancestors to cultivate our life force in our spiritual body-temples, which can sustain us and penetrate through the confusions and limitations of the modern “paradigm.”

Diego invites you into a container of “hermandad,” of sisterhood and brotherhood, to enter into the magical portals of our self-intimacy and togetherness, of our longing and grief and fearless expression–to renew and re-envision our individual and collective destinies.




Migration-Peregrination: BRM December Intensive and Celebration


Migration-Peregrination: BRM December Intensive and Celebration
December 16-22, 2018
The constant need to migrate, to move outside and within oneself, is not only an urgent and vital issue, it is crucial to address and integrate it as a fundamentally human impulse. It is a basic metaphor of transformation – transmutation – transgression, an elemental act that we must preserve and continue promoting, perpetuating from the meaning and purpose of enriching each other in an evolutionary transcultural environment. We must recover the sense of dignity to be exposed. We must assume a humble exchange in two ways: from the complex perspective to be a forced immigrant as well as from the opposite side, to be a welcoming receptor, a human refuge. We must acknowledge the gift and privileged to settle down, and be with the dreaming of the land and the sharing with others a new “cultural landscape.”
Of course, this is beyond the touristic consumption-predator ideology. It is not to interact passively, but to exchange energy, wisdom and love, like bees that pollinate, like whales that favor the regeneration of life in the oceans, to bring to one another our vital substance. We need to regain strength for the coming evolutionary dignity and respectful exchange for our multiple cultures.
I invite you to continue together with that sense of peregrination-migration to Tlalpujahua, Michoacan to transform and heal our wounds when performing ancient practices of ritual and the creative proposal through BRM.
We are at a historic moment to activate the evolution here, there and in every corner of the planet. We have to assume the ancestral memories of pain, humiliation and oppression from our origins to continue healing our wounds, collective and individual, through the most universal means-THE RITUAL EXPRESSION-allowing us to draw from the unconscious new ways to synthesize, purify and manifest through the body. This ritual-sacred-dance holds the greatness of our most critical longings that must surely connect and recover the original freedom-happiness-dreams of our ancestor migrants.
The Intensive will include:
5 days of Intensive Training and Ritual for 8+ hrs/day on the land, outdoor stages and the indoor studio of the BRM Center.
Journeying through and connecting to the surrounding land and unique spaces of Tlalpujahua.
A celebratory montage weaving the offerings of international students, mexican students and the community members of Tlalpujahua.
In these 5 days international and Mexican students will have the special opportunity to work and share in this unique cross-cultural setting. We will engage in the intense, joyful and intimate BRM training to cultivate our energetic capacities, expose and transform our own cultural references, and discover the limits of the body as a means to open the door to the immense and subtle realms within us.
Shared housing arranged by BRM, approximately $14/night
Food approximately $5/day
Best to fly into Mexico City on the 15 or early on the 16 and fly out late on the 22 or the 23 if possible. (It is also possible to fly into Guadalajara but is not recommended for first time travelers)
$385 – before Nov 10 ($185 Deposit)
$440 – after ($240 Deposit)
For registration payment and to confirm your prior experience and intentions with Diego, please email
You will receive additional important details and information after registration.

Dear Community

Dear Community,

Some of you may have seen or heard that some very destructive allegations have been made against me and the work I have tried to share throughout the United States and Mexico. These allegations have been made by someone who has been a student of mine for around 15 years. Unfortunately, 2 years ago, our long-term, meaningful relationship was disrupted by an unresolved confusion around the fact that other presenters also wanted to share this work in and around New York. Although she herself works in multiple venues throughout the city, she seemed to think that my choice to consider another job there would create too much competition and “oversaturate the market”. Out of respect, Christopher Mankowski, another long-term student who has coordinated my work in the US during the last 6 years, and myself, expressed to her our commitment to find a solution that honored her concerns, but that we were beginning an intensive workshop (that involved receiving and coordinating students from all over the world), and would need to wait 5 or so days to continue speaking. The next communications we received from her stated that this was not acceptable and that the “window had closed”. Over the next two years, in the interest of dialogue and sustaining deep and meaningful bonds, Christopher reached out to her multiple times to find a solution. Unfortunately the blogger never responded to any of his attempts to reconnect.

I backed away and sadly felt the loss of a long-time student and friend. However, I never imagined that she would come around to attack me and the work in the way that she has. It is not my intention to fire back at her, because I do not believe that we need any more wars or that we have to ever choose such harsh strategies of cutting out the ones we have developed and evolved with throughout our personal histories. I believe, without question, that this work is in service to our evolution as human beings, in particular to the evolution of the androgynous spirit which, includes the power and beauty of both the feminine and masculine sides of ourselves. I only hope that this inner work of balancing and integration can be an alternative force to the patriarchal oppression that has dominated for so long. This work has and always will be a devotion to our future.

In order to continue with this work, it also means that I have to continuously and vulnerably reflect upon the ways that I am also conditioned by society and all of its harmful codes. I must confront constantly my own internalized conditioning–patriarchal and matriarchal–in order to continue to transform myself. For sure, I cannot lead any kind of transformative work without self examination, and thankfully, through many compassionate people within this community, I have often had the chance to confront and to work on challenging patterns and structures within myself. I believe this is the only way we will all eventually find a pathway to true liberation.

Nearly every performance I have ever made has been a ritual of opening and embracing my feminine side, not only my own, but the universal mystery of the feminine and masculine duality. In the workshops I have the consistent privilege to guide and explore the complexities of gender and power…opening both the masculine and the feminine qualities within every body in order for us to examine and heal our relationship to both of these sides.

Throughout the years, I have received countless testimonials from women and men, cisgender and transgender, sharing how the work has supported them to transgress the culturally enforced habits and patterns of gender, and to heal by transitioning or discovering new gender identities, or to dance beyond identity itself. Most of the long-term students who follow me and who I follow are known for their transgressive work with gender and sexuality in life and on stage as well.

The work we do is not and cannot be institutionalized. It is a rebellion against oppression from the very origins of Butoh and even beyond Butoh, as I try to extend a bridge and reframe the practice of Body Ritual Movement to continue its expression and evolution. It is something beyond the dogma and restrictions that we have even begun to place upon the original spirit of Butoh.

I understand that the training we undertake together is challenging and can sometimes place us directly in front of our fears and insecurities. That is the point, to overcome the trap of our egos. I know I ask a lot of the students and they in turn expect a lot from me. I learn and I follow each of you in every workshop, and over the years I have grown as a guide and a human being because of the ways we support and confront one another. Because of the nature of this work, I understand that it is not the right fit for everyone. I am also aware of when people’s challenges with the work have been brought up as some kind of critique. I want to do my best with the support of my peers and students to evolve and update ways in which people can feel as safe and supported as possible in a container where we are all, including myself, taking spiritual, emotional and physical risks.

I know I have chosen to not be personally available for everyone who wants to connect with me.  Every task is important in life.  Every singular action is sacred and necessary, and is basic and essential to release the ultimate goal in the workshops.  For that reason, I also have the privilege to count on the special people who become “mediators,” as Christopher is, in the present moment.  Also, I should acknowledge the other students, who, in the last 20 years, developed the delicate task to be “mediators.”  I grant them with the right to say and do things on my behalf.  These people include:  Nicole, Shakina, Kata, and Charlene.  All of them, including the local organizers, have supported the deep intention to build, every time, through some level of uncertainty in every new encounter of the work that is asking be accomplished.  So, I am thankful for the students and hosts who have been able and willing to have challenging conversations with me.  Every time, when I get to their specific venues, I have these deep exchanges to try to find the best way to develop every particular proposal/invitation.  All I can do is to keep surrendering in front of this collective destiny.

I know I do not have all the answers, but i do my best to find some kind of balance, trying to create a bridge in myself between all the cultures, and expressions, and views, and differences that I constantly encounter. I try to use this as best as I can to stay with a sense of compassion and understanding in myself and all others. This is something I always try to share as an opportunity for the US and Mexican students to sustain this bridge.

I also can feel in my own heart the crashed side of the feminine that is becoming more and more exposed all over the world. I cannot speak as a woman, but constantly try to understand the depths of what that means as I care for and try to understand more my mother and all the beauty and power and mystery she has held for me for my entire life. This is what I try my best to open and offer in the work; a way to deeply understand each other and all our very unique and very complex sides.

But, unfortunately, the popular way of thinking in the present is to get and stay in conflict. I refuse to be there. I refuse for myself and for the work that we create together. We need to find solutions, and detachment. I am following the advice of many longterm supporters and students of the Body Ritual Movement work and am asking them to address the blogger’s interpretations specifically in their own testimonials and experiences of the workshops over the years. I assume the consequences. Many were present at the same events described by the blogger, and have a very different story to share about what happened and the context. Ultimately, every student does have their own perspective and experience, and ultimately all of you have the decision or not to invite me to continue the work that we are doing.

I remain faithful and dedicated to the collective dream that we have built these many years, that we can depart from the shadow and find a better way to live together in the light.

With the best energy from myself to you all,

If you are interested in reading other students’, organizers’ and colleagues’ views and perspectives about this specific article in relationship to Diego’s work please see the two links below: