Ailing Terpsichore Excerpts

This is Hijikata’s stream-of-consciousness writing, never put into performance. Uno Kuniichi said of Hijikata’s Ailing Terpsichore: “[It] is not dance theory, nor the biography of a dancer, nor the script of a dance, but rather rejects all such limits, and is simultaneously theory, biography, poetry, narrative, and script.”¹

Ailing Terpsichore Translated by Uno Kuniichi, English Translation by Bruce Baird¹

I am beset by the feeling that I am already being caused to dance by something. I became like matter which has suddenly lost its life, possibly because I was enveloped in steam. Probably, the condition of my body itself not feeling gravity also taught me the gesture of rapidly eating the forms which suddenly floated into my thoughts. It appeared that any crevice where affection and discernment might enter my conduct completely disappeared. I guess I even forgot my hands and feet and even my body itself, as if the body was not my own thing to possess.   HTZ  1: 15

I was only thinking about the way that this body will likely continue to be eaten away unless some unusual event does not immediately occur in the sky.  There were always one or two gods that would rip you to shreds no matter which house you went to, and no matter which house, there was always someone sitting there who couldn’t suppress the violent passions of their soul, and they would scream in a shrill voice while gripping those nostalgic fire tongs. I guess I had the feeling that I could understand these people, who taste the all the particulars of being on the brink of cowardice, so I looked at them.  It is certain that the things which I quickly found out, when compared with this situation, were almost all damaged and not more than the corpses of forms. Because the roots of humanity had already crumbled away from the people around me, it could seem as if it was OK for me not to do any thinking.   HTZ  1: 17

A feeble person who slept and woke over and over was always moaning in a dark corner of the house. You could say that I learned from the lessons of this feeble terpsichore my habit of turning loose my body on the tatami like a fish. It appeared that her body was made with the contours of doing something like desiring, but even so, it was cap- tured by a darkness that was like something ruptured and ripened somewhere. She[/I] probably didn’t remember the darkness on the other side that no one knows, this dark resurrection which is like a beginning.   HTZ  1: 18

That thing I can see is certainly a horse or a cow, but is it indeed a dark hole, or probably something that went into the hole and now I can’t see it anymore?   HTZ  1: 20

The I which applied a charcoal fire mold to my shin always felt distressed towards my body as if I were being suspected of something. When I would step into this suspicious territory, I would embrace a strange space-time. It is likely that the I who was wearing the shell of chaos, wanted to be treated as the body that had thrown that off. The I (that stored up something like a marching band at his side and in his face in which his furrowed brow was connected directly to a gap in the sky) sometimes showed a nimble panic. When the sun would cloud over, his feelings would cloud over, and in just that way come to resemble his body. Like a frog with only half a body, I would press my back against a fence.   HTZ  1: 33–34

Whatever you do, you cannot say anything that will help you understand that you are you.  HTZ  1: 61

The immediate future is imperiled; I was surrounded by something that resembled the atmosphere of fluttering butterfly wings. Even the vapor that surrounded me (that was like I was silently watching a small snake melt) approached the hermetically sealed space along with the butterfly. For the shape of such an I, there is no childhood and no past. There is not even anything like something one would have no choice but to invent.   HTZ  1: 73

I was certainly and clearly sucking up through my pores, a wind which was probably blowing on the skin of the dead. Who was it who was encouraging it [/me], “just a little bit more, just a little bit more,” and being cleansed by the transparent wind, and exposed to consolation? Is it because it is only the dead who can sleep contently when the light of a thunderbolt goes behind their eyes?   HTZ  1: 84

On account of the painful injection that came from that damp earth, even though I was full of lies, I became a body unable to lie. The things that are propped up all around that body, seemed as if they had completely died, leaving only the dark texture of me behind. Even after this thing called I dies, I guess the shape of me folding my arms over my chest will remain. Around me the voice(s) of rumors could be heard.   HTZ  1:104

Everyone disappeared from the house. Even the taciturn person suddenly disappeared who turned his/her shoes backwards and waved them. It is just submerged earthworms. I have a feeling that I saw a corpse person striding along with giant steps wearing the form of an unfamiliar clear stomach. I also have the feeling that I have seen a corpse in the shape of a long slender stomach tying off the slender stomach and somewhat regretfully disappearing.   HTZ  1:120


¹ Baird, Bruce. “The Book of Butoh; The Book of The Dead”. The Routledge Companion to Butoh Performance. London and New York: Routledge, 2018. Page 171-176. Translation of: Uno, Kuniichi. 1986. “Butō no sho, shisha no sho.” Yurīka no. 237 (18 July): 30–37.
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