Interview by Luiz Felipe Reis “O Globo” July 2014 | Rio de Janeiro

★Japanese translation that, it is after the English.

★Min Tanaka’s answer is big letter.

1 – Could you please tell me how and when your first relation with dance and Butoh began (childhood, adolescence)? After that, what was the turning point when you realized dance would be your life?
I was drawn to a dance of Japanese traditional festivals and danced [among locals] in my childhood. I learned European style classical ballet and American modern dance for 10 years, since I was about 18 years old. I became familiar with Butoh in 1960’s. I was strongly attracted by Hijikata’s dance, however, I did not take a part in the trendy Butoh. (I did not take advantage of the fashion.)

2 – During your very first works, what were you trying to explore and develop in this relation between dance and butoh? Could you please detail your initial vision and aspirations in this field?
I was a dancer of the naked body in the 1970’s. I left a stage in a theater and danced at every place possible. (I wouldn’t explain in detail now, but the form of my dance then was almost as if merely rolling down!)
I was caught by policemen many times. I did it because I was doubtful of what I had learned in the ten years – the way and the process that the dance was being presented [in the theaters] and the way dancers were [as a given rolls.] In 1978, I was invited to Festival d’automone a Paris, an art festival presented very big event on Japanese culture, and danced in Louvre Musee des Arts decoratifs for three weeks. It was a debut of the naked-body dancer in Europe. A Butoh dancer Yoko Ashikawa, the best pupil of Tatsumi Hijikata also participated in the event. The name Butoh became popular in Paris. However, I had not used the word myself yet. In 1983, I became close to Tatsumi Hijikata for the first time, and rapidly learned many things from him. This was the beginning of the relationship between the thing called Butoh and myself.

3 – What differentiates and distinguishes your dance-butoh compared to Butoh created by personalities like Tatsumi Hijikata and Kazuo Ohno? How influential they were to?
For me, Botoh IS Tatsumi Hijikata himself. Kazuo Ono has no influence on me. It was Tatsumi Hijikata who had exceptionally affected on Japan’s art movement such as literature, philosophy, architecture, music, visual art, drama, and, of cause, dance, between 1950’s and 60’s. Ono was a genius dancer who was in Hijikata’s movement.
I danced, in 1984, a solo Butoh performance choreographed by Hijikata. It was totally out of the blue for the people who
were related to Botoh at the time to see Tatsumi Hijikata and Min Tanaka’s association. (Not a sudden surprise for me!) The following year, the first Butoh festival, which was the last one while Hijikata was alive, was held in Tokyo. My dance group at the time had an honor to participate in it.
As you can see, I had been active in distant places almost irrelevant to the fashion of Butoh. It was my respect to Tatsumi Hijikata, for his strong and earnest existence – not to mention his dance works on stage- that made myself participate in Butoh.

4 – About Tatsumi Hijikata and his Ankoku Butô, how different this discipline or style is from the original or traditional butoh? What are the main differences? Could you please elucidate the meaning of the name Ankoku?
There is no “traditional dance of Butoh.” This is truly a misunderstanding. Tatsumi Hijikata stepped forward to an original direction rebelling and repulsing against dance expression itself, socially conventional sense of beauty, and an institution as well as the physical inconvenience.
Hijikata pursued incompletion. Not to be acknowledged by the society. He must have found an importance in it. In other words, he was facing opposite from fitting and labeling people and a stable position to be given. His activities in the early days did not have any names. Somehow… He started calling it Butoh. The name itself has no meaning [other than a dance.]
In fact, there was a thing called a butoh in Japanese history. In the 19th century, Japan had just opened the country to other foreign countries, and its government and the socially influential figures had invited the VIPs in the West for a high society events. There, they danced a style similar to what we call social dance now, and it was called butoh back then.

5 – Looking in retrospect to your last works before “Locus focus”, could you evaluate to what extent this work represent a different step, a distinctive aesthetic approach in the way you work over dance and movements?
“Locus focus” is not a title of the [constructed] piece of the work. Basically, I do not think my dance as a piece [that can be repeated.] “Locus focus” is a trial that the process of dance which emerges and being danced in one location to return to nature. I started it in Japan in 2004 and in the same year, I tried in Indonesian islands for about 50 days.
To dance without any announcement in advance.
To try dancing impulsively.
To set my condition be [only] the specific location and the people who would gather there, even with an announcement.
To accept all the reactions from the people who were there, when dancing without announcement.

I pursued the condition of my dance which emerges within me to be closer to daily life, rather than approaching to dance techniques (or movements.)

6 – What motivated you to create “Locus focus”? Could you please detail the origin of this work and also what were your main investigations and aims while creating this show?
I have been feeling unnatural about the whole process of an expression to be presented – production work, producing, staff, management and publicity. It is because of my increasing distrust against artists who would depend on their fame.

7 – Why did you chose “Locus focus” as this title of this work, what it means to you? You said once that you do not dance “in a place”, but you dance “the place”. Could please develop a little further on this?
I think this question is a matter of the nature of a piece. Many commercial dance pieces are created and repeated in theaters and stages that are one same sizes in mind. It can be said that such theater works are a product-based showcases, or, in other word, they became a competition of the market values. I do not have a motivation for that. Of course a dance would not be born without a place. In that sense, “I dance at a place.” However, I want to dance something which happens because of the place. Thus, in this sense, “I dane a place.”

8 – Could you explain how work/function the relationship between dance and agriculture in your dance? What led you to this connection, between dance and agriculture?
I am not interested in the farming that is for the income and/or as the occupation. I have a deep admiration towards a standing point of the farmers. They live closely to the soil, touching the plants, and being exposed to the sunlight and wind. It is to make one’s body participate in the nature’s linkage. I am interested in songs and dance that emerges from labor in the most primitive sense. This association commonly happens all over the world. My body gets closer and closer to dance itself. It has different dimension from training in a studio in a city. An essential difference is brought about in the fundamental sense. I use tools in my farming, but not the machine. It has been over 30 years since I became proper farmer.

9 – Also: what motivated you to create a organic farm, and how this place interferes and is an influence in your researches and creations on dance?
The chemical fertilizers and the agricultural chemicals have developed rapidly after World War ll. The farmers who used them have know how terrifying they are. I cannot bring myself to use them. There are many farmers who had to give up on their successors due to the mechanization and the increasing size of the agriculture. And the change in the ecosystem is radical. After all, the scenery of the farming villages which was the origin of dance, and which I was affected conclusively is disappearing right now.

10 – You emphasize that your work is not based on choreography, is not pre-determined. Do you classifies your work as improvisation or not? How do you differentiate the conscious creation or invention which happen and takes place in every instant, and free improvisation, movements that occur to pure chance?
I would always like to secure pure chances. It would not be necessary to have audience, if I were only to pursue the pleasure and the interest in moving in the moment. I want to believe in the possibility of the dance which stimulates the audience’s images, their memories lie in their body, and their emotions. The reason is that I was the one who was woken up by the stimulation of the dance. In addition, I believe the improvisation is very important way not only for the expression, but for a life you live only once. For that, my ascetic practice is to keep planning my daily life for enriching my imagination and maintaining the possibility of my body.

11 – What could you learn in doing films/movies? How your work fits in this industry of entertainment?
How about drawing a line between “major” and “minor?” Movie is not the only industry for an entertainment. Whether Music, theater or dance, the majors are moving the economy. You can call it a trend. Every expression has a motivation that keeps pursuing universality. It sometimes is maintained by the minors. I am letting you know to avoid misunderstanding, that, I participate in many experimental films and documentaries. It is just impossible to see them all over the world, because they are the minors! And, I am in the middle of learning a lot from them, though just 10 years of the experience.

12 – What’s the purpose that still motivates you to dance? Could you please detail what are your main compromise or artistic investigations in this field at this point of your career?
In the 1980’s, I sneaked into the ex-socialism countries such as Czech, Hungary, Poland, and the formed Soviet Union, and danced there secretly. I continued going there until their revolutions were completed. There were no dancers other than myself in such situation. I wanted believe the possibility of the dance. Not that I wanted to be a hero at all. It was the act supported by the money that I earned in Western Europe. Dance is not almighty. However, I know that, in dance, there still has the power to express what I believe in! It cannot be verbalized everything like the language would. But, the silent body can sometime be more reliable than words. That is, for me, worth exhausting my whole life as a motivation to dance. Not being able to do everything by dance is my compromise, and at the same time, it is my determination.

13- What is the place, function or the role of dance (as an art form) in society today?
A society includes the people who resist to it and who do not expect anything from it. Brazil is the society, and Syria is the society, too… Can you, then, imagine the society without any songs and dance? It may be, in my personal opinion, better off without the needs of the dance as high-art. There is no equivalent dance in Japan to Samba, which anyone starts dancing all over Brazil, however, we have many festivals as a tradition of the common folks. In that sense, Japan too is a kingdom of dance.

Thank you for stimulating questions.
Min Tanaka


2014年7月 インタヴューLuiz Felipe Reis 
ブラジルで最大の新聞社「O Globo」掲載の為の事前取材

1 – ダンスとButohとの最初の関係が始まった時を(幼児期なのか、青春期なのか)私に話してもらえますか? その後、ダンスがあなたの人生であると理解したときの分岐点は何でしたか?

2 – あなたの初期作品は、あなたは何の模索や調査をしてダンスと舞踏の関係を発展させましたか?この領域で最初の展望と抱負を詳述してもらえますか?

3 – 土方巽と大野一雄のような個性によってつくられるButohと比較して、あなたの舞踏はどう区別して識別しますか?彼からどのくらい影響力がありましたか?

4 – 土方巽と彼の暗黒舞踏は、この規律またはスタイルは、「伝統的な舞踏」となんの違いがありますか?主要な違いは、何ですか?暗黒の意味を説明してもらえますか?

5 – 「場踊り」以前の作品を鑑みて、この作品は、これまでとの踊りや動きと比べてどのように違った美的アプローチをとり、どのように違った方向に踏み込んでいるのか、ご自身の評価をお聞かせください。



6 – 何が、あなたに「場踊り」をつくる動機を与えましたか? その根源、そして「場踊り」創作における探求と目指したものについて、詳しく教えてください。

7 – 今回のはなぜこのタイトルを選んだのですか?それがあなたにとって意味するものは何ですか? あなたは「場所で」踊らない、しかし「場所を」踊る、と言いました、しかし、あなたは「場所で」踊ります。これについてもう少し踏み込んでいただけますか?

8 – あなたの踊りにおいて、農業と踊りの関係がどう機能する/役に立つのかについて説明していただけますか?この、踊りと農業とのつながりに導いたものは何だったのですか?

9 – 有機農業をやっているモチベーションはなんですか?その場所は、あなたのダンスの調査、創造にどんな影響を与えていますか?

10 – あなたのダンスは振付けに基づかず予め決まっていないと、あなたは強調してます。 この仕事は即興と分類することができますか?その差異はなんですか? 意識的な創造もしくは瞬間に起こり具現化される発明的な創造と、自由即興ー純粋な偶然性で起こる動きの連続ーとの差異をどのように位置づけていますか?

11 – 映画の活動であなたは何を学ぶことができましたか?エンタテイメント産業と貴方のオドリは何が合いますか?
多数と少数という具合に考えてみてはどうでしょうか?エンタテイメントな産業はなにも映画に限ったことではないでしょう。音楽でも演劇でも舞踊でも、多数が経済を動かしています。それを流行と呼ぶこともできます。あらゆる表現は、普遍性を求め続けるという動機を持っています。これは時に少数によって維持されたりもします。私は誤解されたくないので話しますが… 多くの実験的映画やドキュメンタリーにも参加しています。それを世界中で見ることが不可能なだけです。少数ですから!そしてそれらから、たくさんのことを学習中です。まだ10年の経験ですが。

12 – まだあなたに踊る動機を与える目的は何ですか?貴方の経歴そして現在の時点での、あなたの一番の妥協点または芸術的調査はなんですか?詳細に教えてください。

13- 機能または役割としてのダンスは今この社会の中でどこにありますか?