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, Vangeline France. 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 Vangeline 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 Vangeline’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 Vangeline, 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,