Natsu Nakajima, the Dancer, Assembles her Memories As They Fade and Rebirth

Natsu Nakajima, the Dancer, Assembles her Memories As They Fade and Rebirth

Before his death, the master Tatsumi Hijikata (1928-1986), the founder of ankoku butoh, left a profound message to his disciple Natsu Nakajima: Write about the hidden history, because it is that of the nameless people and there is the truth. After many years, Nakajima, a renowned choreographer and dancer, managed to gather her memories and experiences into a book titled As they disappear, they are born: Butoh poetics.

This significant work, brought to life by EKO Casa de Cultura Japonesa AC and Ala de Mosca Editores, is being introduced to the public today at 1 p.m. at the Casa Miguel Alemán of the Los Pinos Cultural Complex. The presentation will feature comments from Patricia Cardona, a researcher in the performing arts, as well as from the author herself.

Nakajima was born in 1943 on the remote island of Sakhlin, located far north of the capital in the animist region of Japan. She is a pivotal figure in the world of butoh, having had the unique opportunity to work with Tatsumi Hijikata and Kazuo Ono, who together pioneered a new way to understand and interpret dance.

The book, published in both Japanese and Spanish, comprises texts that Nakajima wrote between 2015 and 2024. It also includes a lecture she delivered at Fu Jen University in Taiwan in 1997 and a piece titled Butoh from my comrade that was written by Hijikata about Nakajima.

In her book, Nakajima shares her insights into the Japanese art movement: “Through ankoku butoh I learned to understand the heart and the body as one. Ankoku butoh is all about body awareness.

Hijikata initially referred to it as taiken butoh before renaming it ankoku butoh. Taiken is akin to an experience that engulfs your entire body, something that you can consume, and once it becomes a part of you, it never leaves. Through taiken, you gain knowledge and experience feelings, which then transform into a force of existence. That force is what causes us to transform.

Regarding the presentation of As they disappear, they are born: Butoh poetics, The Conference had a conversation with Sakiko Yokoo, the director of EKO House of Japanese Culture and the editor of the book, and Espartaco Martínez, who wrote the epilogue.

Yokoo emphasized that the publication, besides featuring Nakajima’s texts, also includes a precious piece that Hijikata wrote about his student, in which he tells her: You delved into butoh, you immersed yourself in butoh, and you danced through it. You managed to view your life through enigmatic eyes, which is why your butoh has expressed itself as a silent, sensitive, and lyrical freshness.

Espartaco Martínez stated that Natsu is the only surviving member and the only person from that movement. Butoh has spread across the globe, but she was fortunate enough to work with masters Hijikata and Ono, and she was part of the first generation. At the age of 80, teacher Natsu is fulfilling a cycle and a commitment that implicates us because it is a legacy. It is not a coincidence that during her initial visits to the country, she encountered Eugenia Barba and introduced butoh to Mexico 30 years ago. The task that the teacher is now undertaking extends beyond the personal, a trait that is rare. Her book provides an inspiring portrayal that instills hope through the ankoku.

Sakiko Yokoo pointed out that the book As they disappear, they are born: Butoh poetics began taking shape in 2021 and received support from the Japan Foundation for Nakajima’s visit to Mexico.

When discussing butoh in Latin America, Martínez explained that the arrival of Nikijama and other masters like Katsura Kan and Ko Murobushi in the country expanded our horizons, as she proposed a comprehensive theater; a concept that has been discussed since Antonin Artaud as a revolutionary theater.

Butoh in Latin America has created space for a cultural perspective that was previously stigmatized. Natsu has a significant connection, and I find this book particularly interesting because it represents the 80-year legacy of the teacher. Just as the third theatre, the theatre of dissent, arrived, so did butoh, and it is leaving a lasting impact on the younger generation.

It is reported in the publication that Nikijama made her debut in Mexico in 1987, at the Cervantino International Festival. That very same year, she also performed at the University Cultural Center.

Regarding her connection with Mexico, the author writes in the book: Mexico holds a special place in my heart. I sense a powerful connection between Mexicans and Japanese. The Mexicans have indigenous blood running through their veins, and it is believed that the indigenous people originated from Asia via the Bering Strait… We Japanese are Buddhists, but deep down, we have animism as an archaic foundation, and that is at the core of butoh.