Affect & Feeling (Upd: Aug 16, ’20)

“Movement and feeling are inseparable.” – Sondra Fraleigh7

In order to use our body as an instrument for life resonance and endlessly shifting qualias, we need to be able to feel in the first place. We must get very familiar with sensing the body, becoming the sense-ei, our own personal master teacher of feeling.  To prepare the body for feeling, it helps to already have entered into a state of nurture and empty body.

Beautifully written, Susanna Åkerlund talks of the importance of sensing/listening in butoh training:

To train butoh is to train one’s abilities to intensify sensory experiences. It is a violent strive to come closer, closer to the environment, all objects, bodies, by taking them into your mouth, really taste the leaves, the rocks, the dirt, the water, feel the coldness of the wind, the hardness of the trees, the sliminess of the animals, to do it from the outside, with one’s real skin, and then take in these things inside oneself.12

Aki Yo

Spinoza defines affect as “affections of the body by which the body’s power of acting is increased or diminished, aided or restrained, and at the same time, the ideas of these affections.”8 In Beth Lord’s words, “Affects are the feelings and desires that arise in us as a result of our encounters and experiences: affects push and pull us in different directions, determining our actions and behavior, sometimes overwhelming us.”10

When there is affect, both body and mind react together. Both emotion and sensation are affects grounded in a mind-body whole.

According to Spinoza, no matter what, we will always be in a state of varying affects, which will either remain in place or interchange with another affect.The same is the case for qualias, which are the something to be affected.

Affect also does not form a dichotomy with movement but another whole (affect-movement) just as the mind-body is a whole. To separate movement from the body would be to take away the body. As Eva Perez de Vega notes, “Movement has a physical component and a mental/emotional counterpart, both linked by the concept of affect.”11

Spinoza breaks down affect into two types: passive and active movements/affects. To him the passive affects (or passions) involve being acted upon by external things whereby we are either partially the cause or not the cause at all. Whereas active movement/affects derive from our nature alone (nothing external).8

Butoh’s important motif of being moved by something (becoming) not only plays credence to passive affects, but active ones, as we are actively engaged in butoh theater (active) of being moved (passive). In this way, one could say butoh engages in meta-affect. Passive affect within the active affect.

Felt Sense

Felt sense is a term coined by Eugene Gendlin and used extensively by Peter Levine who came up with the following list. He is a pioneer in trauma work and proposed actually feeling the intricacies of the bodies as the first step toward healing.¹ List has been integrated to fit into Rhizome Lee’s 8 Channel Model of qualias.
Note: It is possible for a type of felt sense to show itself in another channel, e.g. tension in both body channel and movement channel.

Body Channel

Pressure – even, uneven, supportive, crushing, cutting off circulation

Air current – gentle, cool, warm, from right, from left, stimulating, overstimulating, misty

Tension – solid, dense, warm, cold, inflamed, protective, constricting, angry, sad

Pain – ache, sharp, twinge, slight, stabbing

Itch – mild itch, irritating itch, moving itch, subtle itch, large area itch

Temperature – warm, hot, burning, cool, cold, clammy, chills, frozen, both hot and cold

Weight – light, heavy, both light and heavy

Texture – rough, smooth

Element – fire, air, earth, water, wood, metal

Qualia (shadowbody addition) – various/non-dual/Center of 8 Channel Model

Movement Channel

Motion – circular, erratic, straight line

Speed – fast, slow, still

Tingle – pricks, vibration, tickling, numb

Visual Channel

Size – small, large, medium, both large and small

Shape – flat, circular, triangular, irregular

Color – various

Emotion Channel

Mood – rainy, cloudy, sunny, stormy, violent (e.g. earthquake, tsunami)

Audio Channel

Sound – buzzing, harmonious, noisy

World = Self

Presence –  empty, here, distracted

Human Relationship

Co-body (shadowbody addition) sensation of another person in the room

Miscellaneous/Outside of 8 Channel

Taste – sour, bitter, sweet, astringent, salty, oily, pungent

Smell – pungent, sweet, like rain, like trees

Exercise 1: Body Scan Roll Down

While on your back or standing up, slowly roll your spine up then back down (or vise versa) vertebra by vertebra. Scan slices of your body (like the axial slices of a hospital cat scan machine) and be aware of any sensations. You can also refer to the roll down in the spine section.

Exercise 2: Hand Body Scan

Hover your hands around every surface of your body. Imagine your hands have extra senses to feel wherever it hovers, whether many eyes, ears, nose, or even tongue.

Exercise 3: Part Shift

First have the participant locate a particular feeling in the body and to express the feeling with movement. Then signal the participant to relocate the exact movement expression but to various body parts in varying subtleties.

Exercise 4: Taste Improvisation

Have the participants close their eyes and put some form of treat or fruit in their mouth. Have them dance the taste.


“There is a kind of synaesthesia which seems to play out in the language of Butoh, whereby the dancer can mix up the senses… to send the normal sensory functions into disarray, allowing the ears to feel, or the eyes to smell…An arm might explore all the crevices and contours of its own skin with all the objective distance of a gloved and estranged limb.” – Rachel Sweeney²

Herbert Blau, a theoretician of performance, mentions theater group KRAKEN’s synaesthesia exercises he calls ghosting and/or burrowing. Blau states, “We were susceptible to, even impassioned by, a synaesthesia of organs and body parts, like listening with a kneecap, humming with a thumb, the eyelids avid as taste buds, images there in your gut.”5

Tatsumi Hijikata’s butoh-fu The Blind Girl contains the synesthetic line: “The fourth blind girl is listening to sounds / using her forehead, her ears, her skin, / and all the nerves in her body.”13

Deleuze and Guattari encouraged this sort of experiment. They add, “Is it really so sad and dangerous to be fed up with seeing with your eyes, breathing with your lungs, swallowing with your mouth, talking with your tongue, thinking with your brain, having an anus and larynx, head and legs? Why not walk on your head, sing with your sinuses, see through your skin, breathe with your belly[?]”When this happens, one has engaged in deterritorialization and defamiliarization of a body part (e.g. lungs) and the body part gets reterritorialized somewhere else (e.g. belly).


“If you place the beauty of … [the] flower and the emotions which are evoked by it into your dead body, then the flower you create will be true and unique and the audience will be moved.” – Kazuo Ohno³

It is recommended to identify emotions past the basic happy, sad, and angry. There are many more:

Affection, anger, angst, anguish, annoyance, anticipation, anxiety, apathy, arousal, awe, boredom, confidence, contempt, contentment, courage, curiosity, depression, desire, despair, disappointment, disgust, distrust, ecstasy, embarrassment, empathy, envy, euphoria, fear, frustration, gratitude, grief, guilt, happiness, hatred, hope, horror, hostility, humiliation, interest, jealousy, joy, loneliness, love, lust, outrage, panic, passion, pity, pleasure, pride, rage, regret, remorse, resentment, sadness, saudade, schadenfreude, self-confidence, shame, shock, shyness, sorrow, suffering, surprise, trust, wonder, worry.

Important: To not get lost in the outer form (especially facial expressions), once a particular feeling is recognized, swallow the emotion and then resonate with how the body reacts while also being mindful of typical gestures associated with the feeling. This is not repression of emotion, but the opposite. If after this, the facial expression or gesture still comes, resonate with that too. (See Emotion Fermentation & Distillation further in page for more on this idea.)

An extreme re/deterritorializion/reduction of human expression of emotion would be to place the face right on the ground literally or as if it were the case. This is Tatsumi Hijikata’s floor face from his butoh score (butoh-fu) Quiet House.4

Exercise 1: Emotional Jumping Wild (Throwing Emotional Qualias)

This is a jumping wild exercise where somebody calls out one emotion after another and the participant is to shift through them. First, the emotions can be acted out in the face, but and then they can be acted out without the facial expressions or gestures associated with them. After one gets used to shifting, we take the training wheels off by shifting through them ourselves.


Exercise 2: Emotional Metamorphosis

This exercise involves entering very fully into one emotion. Afterword, somebody calls out various qualias (at first we can do more familiar qualias, such animals, then we can experiment with other qualias beyond animals). We keep the same emotion but we shift through various qualias. We express the emotion to the maximim to the best ability and limitation of the qualia. For instance, in Kafka’s Metamorphosis, when the main character turned into a bug, he remembered the human feelings and emotions, but now with a bug body, he could not react as a human. He had to attempt to express these things as a bug, which was not necessarily coming across to the humans in his world.

Exercise 3: Deconstructing Emotional Response

Because there are certain physical associations, gestures, or facial expressions related to a feeling, we want to train ourselves to go beyond this. The physicality of an emotion may seem universal, but there can still be a cultural influence. For instance, if one were to give a teeth-displaying smile to a monkey, this could be taken as a sign of aggression because to them teeth means being ready to bite, hence an act of aggression. We can thus shift the physical response to any emotion. If for instance, we go into the qualia of horror, we can utilize a gesture, physical association, or facial expression not associated with the qualia of horror.

Exercise 4: Emotional Face Chimera

This is a chimera exercise where one part of the face gives one emotion and another part another. For instance, the mouth can exhibit deep disappointment and the eyes, euphoria.

Exercise 5: Emotional Body Parts

This is a chimera exercise. Pick two or more body parts and associate them with different emotions.

Emotion Fermentation & Distillaton

What is in an emotional expression? The typical facial expression or movement gesture can be seen in everyday life or in movies. Mainstream actors know these gestures and facial expressions. In butoh, however, we may not be too interested in the surface meaning of things or general associations. This is why I like to use the analogy of: (1) Juice; (2) Wine; (3) Brandy.

Let juice be the ordinary emotion expression, e.g. fear. We then take this emotional expression and swallow it so that it can ferment. The question is, what will turn this juice expression to a wine expression? Is there something even more that can show us fear without the literal facial expression? Perhaps this is your secret. Is it new wine or aged wine? Can we take the process further into distillation? Can we make brandy? If so, will the brandy be a new brandy or an aged brandy? Perhaps the aged wine and aged brandy will take years of letting the expression sit. This is your process.


¹ Levine, Peter A. Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma : the Innate Capacity to Transform Overwhelming Experiences. Berkeley, Calif: North Atlantic Books, 1997. Print.
² Barbe, Frances. The Way of Butoh and Contemporary Choreography: Reflective. Writing on Choreographic Research. n.d. Web. 20 April 2010.
³ Ohno, K. (1988), “Notes by Kazuo Ohno”, in Viala, J. and Masson-Sekine, N. (ed. ), Butoh-Shades
of Darkness, Tokyo: Sbufunotomo Co., Ltd. pp. 176-183.
4 Lee, Rhizome, Behind the Mirror: Butoh Manual For Students.
5 Blau, Herbert. “Performing in the Chaosmos” Farts, Follicles, Mathematics, and Delirium in Deleuze. Deleuze and Performance. Edited by Laura Cull. Edinburgh, England. 2009. Page 31.
6 Deleuze, Gilles, and Félix Guattari. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. London: Continuum, 2004. Print. Page 150, 151.
7 Fraleigh, Sondra. Somatics as Philosophy: From Spinoza to Damasio. Page 7.
Benedict de Spinoza. The Ethics. III. D3.
9 Ibid. II. P13 Cor.
10 Lord, Beth. Spinoza’s Ethics. Edingburgh Philosphical Guides. Edingburgh, Great Britain. 2010. Page 83-84.
11 Perez de Vega, Eva. Affect and The Moving Body. Page 10.
12 Bergmark, Johannes. Butoh -Revolt of the Flesh in Japan and a Surrealist Way to Move. Stockholm. 1991.
13 Waguri, Yukio, Butoh-Fu CD-Rom. 2006.