Butoh Mutations


Butoh as heard from nine dancers

with Dominique Savitri Bonarjee

a 9-week course at Colet House starting on 5 September, 2023

Top Studio @ Colet House, Tuesday evenings, 19.30 – 21.00

Butoh is a dance that emerged in post-war Japan in response to the widespread Westernization of society, following the atomic bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Initially it was conceived as an art movement capable of resisting through the visceral body, that is the body-material stripped of its national and gender identity and associations.

Between 2012 – 2017, I spent much of my time in Japan. I went there to learn, and especially to listen to the transmissions of nine of the most seminal Japanese Butoh dancers, including three important contemporary dance artists working with Butoh today. The model of direct transmission between a master teacher and a student (the guru-shishya relation that originated in India), is a model of ‘learning by osmosis’ to some extent. The student becomes attuned to unspoken teachings by being in the teacher’s presence and developing embodied listening capacities.

This 9-week course coincides with the publication of my book Butoh as heard by a dancer, due to launch in September and published by Routledge. We will follow the order in which the dancers appear in the book, covering :

Yoshito Ohno, Natsu Nakajima, Yukio Waguri, Moe Yamamoto, Masaki Iwana, Ko Murobushi, Yukio Suzuki, Takao Kawaguchi, Yuko Kaseki.

Each week will be focused on a single aspect of each of the teachings and conversations I had with these 9 dancers. This means the methods will alter somewhat from week to week. The diversity of their approaches is also a way to address the complexity of Butoh as an artistic project. Becoming familiar with Butoh as a ‘formless form’, is also a way to practice going beyond the (Western) habit of stabilizing and naming form as a prerequisite for engaging with it: a habit that is somewhat embedded in current ways of thinking, acting and knowing to our detriment.

This class offers a path of embodied inquiry into the self, spirit and society, a place to think through the intellectuality of the body, to dance, and perhaps to discover new ways of being.

The series is open to all levels, though having a physical practice of some kind will be helpful. Each session begins with a warm-up of Yoga and Tai-chi chuan, followed by dance and choreographic experiments, tasks and dances in solo, duos or groups. Drawing and writing is part of the learning, so please bring a dedicated notebook to sessions.

*Dress code: It’s best to wear loose comfortable clothes and to dance barefoot or in socks

Kirtan London with Šárka Elias at The Study Society

Dominique Savitri Bonarjee

Dominique Savitri Bonarjee is an artist and a dancer. Her practice focuses on ‘psychosomatic attunement’ as a form of deep listening to space, place, and time, to which she responds physically, materially, and sonically, creating hybrid living artworks. Her Art PhD research at Goldsmiths University engages with nonhuman knowing as a pluralistic and spiritual approach to knowledge.

Between 2012-2015 Dominique lived in Japan pursuing an oral-research project into Japanese Butoh dance. There she interviewed seminal dancers for her upcoming book to be published in 2023. Her principal teachers and mentors are the dancers Masaki Iwana, Ko Murobushi, Natsu Nakajima and Yoshito Ohno.

Dominique is a lifelong seeker in the path of nondual wisdom practices and her classes will often leak into spiritual matters. She is a yogi since childhood, a Sufi dervish in the making, and a qualified practitioner of Tai-ch’i and Qi-Gong in the Wudang lineage.



“Participating in Dominique’s Butoh course was a most rewarding experience. Her skilled and gentle guidance into explorations based on images and movements opened up in me areas and insights that were new to me and utterly fascinating – truly a deep and enjoyable learning experience. I very much hope that she will soon offer another course or a series of classes and workshops at Colet House.”

Klaus – bookseller – 69 years old – London

“For me, the whole experience cannot be easily described with words that how fascinating it is! The space where I could connect to my humble – self. The dance/movement is a kind of the deep listening that is not for expressing myself, it is to dissolve the ego and compromise with a sense of “self”.

A, London