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Photo: Lambie Brothers.

Yumino Seki and the world of Butoh

in conversation with Judy Parkinson Yumino Seki sets the scene for her Butoh dance and installation at St Mary in the Castle this week, part of Coastal Currents.

“We walk on dead people all the time. Their bones are buried beneath our feet everywhere.” Yumino’s world of Butoh is a bit like this. There are dividing lines, boundaries, meridians and latitudes, all crossing over and reflecting each other. East and West, dark and light, mortal and immortal, fast and slow, loud and quiet, dancer and viewer, the inner self and the outer body.

Yumino started dancing in Tokyo when she was eight. Early on she experienced some striking influences. The nursery school principal always dressed in a traditional kimono, and his dance was a severe form of German expressionism. She soon took up classical ballet.

Yumino learnt the intricacies of Butoh in Europe. “I knew about Butoh in Japan,” she recalls, “but there’s a stigma about it there. Butoh is extreme – dancers can be naked with shaved heads, painted white, screaming. It can be disturbing and anti-authoritarian or by contrast surreal, absurd and even humorous.”

She confesses that she was not quite brave enough for Butoh classes in Japan. She moved to London aged 28 and began a performing arts course incorporating body, mind and creative movement, leaving her formal dance education behind.

In London she came across Butoh classes led by western teachers. “In Japan you copy the teacher, but in London we explored our inner selves, our human feelings. I felt liberated.” For over 20 years Yumino has performed Butoh in Australia and all over Europe.

Yumino’s continuing exploration of sensory experience in artistic expression led her to somatic movement classes in Amsterdam where she studied Voice Movement Integration Somatic Practice. “It’s a holistic approach to the body in which the emotional and physical come together – the embodiment of wholeness. And since the voice is part of us, everything is linked up,” she says.

Along with Butoh, Yumino teaches dance for adults with learning disabilities as part of Hastings & Bexhill Mencap Society’s Active Arts programme.

Last year’s Coastal Currents festival saw Yumino at the Durbah Hall in Hastings Museum. ‘I wanted to bring the architecture into the choreography using the audience, sound and light; to break the two-dimensional tradition of stage and viewer and make something new. I had the audience upstairs looking down on the dance so they could appreciate the space as well as the dance. Space is so important for me – how can I make a space seem bigger, smaller, more intimate? I made parallel worlds with sound in certain areas. Maybe it was odd, but it gave the depth I was looking for.

“This year, we have support from the Arts Council England, and for our Butoh installation in St Mary in the Castle, I want to work with space again, but instead of working with the architecture, we have a big neutral space that I will map out with three 10-metre light strips and two drawn semi-circles of light. Lines are very important in this project – lines between east and west – the solstice alignment – when sunrise and sunset are aligned. This year’s dance is called Manjusaka, the fragrant flower that blooms at the autumn equinox.

Fabiola Santana.

“The lines can be straight or made into segments that alter the space and the atmosphere. Sensory experience depends where the viewers are positioned – it changes their experience and, together with soundscape, how much we want the sound to travel.”

There are three dancers in the performance, Yumino herself, Alison Grace and Fabiola Santana. The common thread is Butoh in which each dancer expresses themselves in form, shape and spirit, pulling the whole thing into one.

As Fabiola says: “We transmute energy to evoke and embody feelings and memories of dances – of butterflies, ghosts, paradise, my other self, inner self, open and closing of doors, childhood and transcending from one frequency to another. There’s a flow of the paradise arc as things appear organically. We shift our mind-set and transform our energy.”

Alison Grace.

Alison talks about working with Yumino: “She has a gentle and feminine approach, inspired by her Butoh training and somatic practice – always seeking the truthful and the genuine in our dance experience and in our expression. As we work together, we build new landscapes, starting from the visions of the equinox flower, to the edge of what is still unknown to us.”

“I’m lucky to have fantastic collaborators – dancers Alison and Fabiola,” says Yumino, “and of course the technical team, Jamie Griffiths, Nick Weekes, Gary Rowe and Jim Roseveare, who all understand my world of Butoh. We’ve just finished a great rehearsal period, it has been an amazing sensory journey. I hope we can take viewers with us and make it a sensory journey for them too, crossing boundaries, reflecting what’s outside and inside, above and below.”


MANJUSAKA まんじゅさか The Equinox Flower

Butoh Dance and Installation Wed 10 and Thurs 11 September at 7.30, 8.30, 9.30pm – each time-slot presents different fragments from Manjusaka.

St Mary in the Castle, 7 Pelham Cresent, Hastings TN34 3AF. £2 per session or free for concessions (refreshment included). Advance booking and information: and


Posted 19:35 Saturday, Sep 6, 2014 In: Performance

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