a living archive | dance research


Dancing Being in Time is a living butoh dance archive connecting my previous solo dance works, their most striking moments, and tracing the evolution of choreography and archetypes through years of solo performances, with their political, ancestral, and artistic historicality and backgrounds. Through process documentation in video, blogs and prototype dance instruction audio, I hope to expand what we know about dance and psychosomatic journeys, studying the patterns of impulse in one body over time.

As a Dancing Being in Time, I question whether the impulses of my body are traumatic patterns of oppression over the span of centuries of violence, and how my dance integrates with my life over the span of years. While the answers may not literally emerge in dance performance, the deep questions may change the methods, intentions, and possibilities in teaching and choreographing other bodies involving and transforming challenging and possibly traumatic tendencies.

The title is inspired by Martin Heidegger’s Being and Time and how we can / cannot separate ourselves from the patterns we have inherited and been thrown into.

I ask- Is there a present node of the moment that shifts the patterns? How can the historical lineages and the shifts be visible and understandable? Are the impulses in our bodies connected to the political / ancestral, across multiple projects over years? What are intentional / unintentional transformation in the art and life of a dancer, surrounding one+ piece? How are former choreographies relevant to the body in the present? 

To share my background, after intense years of training and performing in butoh dance, I wanted to teach the inner senses of dance that deeply moved and changed me and went to study Anna and Daria Halprin’s Method at the Tamalpa Institute. I also worked to integrate butoh dance, psychosomatic therapy, and conflict resolution with a Masters at the Process Work Institute.

Image Still by Isabelle Schmitz

part I: a butoh living archive

[auto-fictional graphic noir film: 11 minutes]

This is some kind of auto-fictional graphic noir, on how pain lives in the body over time.

Hello, I am a butoh dancer and i wondered about the body as a living archive, how the body changes & specifically, how it would be to dance again performance pieces fro the past that first started in pain. In butoh dance, the body speaks what is hard to say because of the magnitude of emotional / psychological charge, or because of political suppressions. There are other dance forms that codify stories that cannot be spoken due to censorship.

This is one account of a dancer’s living archive, which i hope brings people inspiration for transformation in life through dance. The title is inspired by Martin Heidegger’s Being and Time and how we can / cannot separate ourselves from the patterns we have inherited and been thrown into.

[This is not necessarily a feat of technique or mastery. Often times archives are for the dead and famous. I’m a professional yet emerging artist that performs with organic movements for authenticity. I am also a deep lover of film yet well, i hope my more diy film cut and paste does not take the viewers out too much.]

I started out by watching videos and reviewing notes from my own choreographies from around 5-7 years ago. In the studio this year (2023), I redid these dances, recorded on video, and through video review / writing, attempted to gain enough distance to write about the differences between the performance time and now. I reflected on - what were the influences artistically and in topics and themes? how are my body and being different now? what is new? is there a moment that changes the patterns? what happened in my life since / with the dance?

I anchored this video on one piece from 2018 called “Origins of a Woman” performed at the Headwaters Theater in Portland. It was a personal dance about sexual violence and sexuality that I connected to the surrounding #metoo movement and the embodiment of the comfort women, victims from Korea and more Asian countries of sexual violence by the Japanese Imperial Army. As a body from Korea that grew up mostly in the U.S., with related experiences yet not in the same magnitude, i was somewhat far and near to that past, place, and life. The dance piece is poetically “... reminiscent of divisions, war, bodies, breath of memory slipping through, holding on to a quiet power within while being attacked, the moment of waiting to start a new movement in music between two scores, typhoons, desert, a hand longing for a hold at the end of a day, a lifetime, chasing the sun as it is setting, beyond ... ... …”

Then back to now in 2023, I researched in a studio in Berlin and shared two variations at Backstein Boot. In one attempt, I redid the “Origins of a Woman” piece trying to be the body from 2018 that first danced this piece. In a second variation, I redid the dance as my body is now.

In dance and psychosomatic analyses, the movements that emerge would reveal different themes, archetypes, and patterns. As the movements are similar in redoing a piece, I reflected on the different senses of the way that body moves. This may be challenging to view in detail from the static film shots yet hopefully some nuances can be felt. I also reflected on my inner emotions. For example, looking at 2018, there is a meekness that was both feigned in the character work and real as I had a different meditation and fasting practice. Trying this now in 2023, the meekness was very disgusting to me as I had both a sympathy and a lot more strength in my body. I had a new sense of trickery, righteousness, and possibly less softness. My physicality as well as my relations to gender and sexuality have also been changing over the years. Subservience, vengeance, forgiveness, defense, righteousness, some kind of love for the perpetrator, and relationality are themes in this performance that have been living in my life since. There is no linear trajectory yet there are differences between 2018 and 2023 in the dance and life, as well as a deepening of the possibilities for these qualities in the body.

Whew… This is a very, very specific look, a mix of some deep navel-gazing and an attempt to reveal something new for others, possibly just the hints at the value of the past, present, and future dancing together…  the connections between the personal, relational, and what happens in the world… the trajectory of art into life, and life into AHHHHHRRRRTTTTT.

Special thanks to:
Film / music from various projects and moments from studio clips / on gazing / Origins of a Woman / a living archive / Chrysalis by Nanda Agostino / Rooted by Apricot
Music by Institute for Creative Dying / Crystal Quartez / Phonoschrank / Summer the Four Seasons Vivaldi / Fonss / Glitchedtones
Film by Isabelle Schmitz / TJ Thompson / Jos McKain
Film Photography by Joey Binhammer
Rehearsal support at Theaterhaus Mitte, Pionierprobe Prenzlauer Promenade, Backstein Boot

part ii: Resources for the Butoh-Curious

writing + resources about butoh dance with books, articles,  online tutorials, and classes

link to blog on Medium

part iii: Prototypes for butoh scores through listening

Butoh dance uses poetic language and somatic instructions to inspire the body to move. 

This is from a different project where I researched the somatic memories of another dancer on the theme of [transforming] violence, and with another writer and musician, created this audio experience journey for the listeners to move and listen as well. [1 hour of poetic, musical, and somatic experience]

This is an audio experience [/ experiment] of a butoh dance element from an older performance, Origins of a Woman (the piece that the above video is also centered around). I hope it brings a different kind of somatic listening and experiencing than watching. The audio deals with the topic of boundaries. [under 3 minutes]



Gefördert durch die Beauftragte der Bundesregierung für Kultur und Medien im Programm NEUSTART KULTUR,
DIS-TANZEN des Dachverband Tanz Deutschland.