Filler & Idle (Upd: Mar 30, ’21)

“Catching some parts of chaos and creating a total chaos. Catching some parts of the other chaos and creating the other chaos, and you’ll find this chaos is completely different from the first chaos. Such a process exists innumerably.” – Akaji Maro¹

Figure 1, Musical Crossfade

Resonating with filler/scribble/idle is the same as being in-between and so is closely related to ma. It can also closely associated with spontaneity and improvisation. Can also take on the association with fluff and embellishment.

We can wait and wait here till something necessary emerges. Tatsumi Hijikata once said, “butoh dancers have got to position their bodies so that no one is able to guess their next movement.”² Getting acquainted with the in-between filler helps with this.

In linguistics, the filler is used to seal the gap between a pause within one spoken idea or phrase, and in the English language, they are the words such as ah, uh, and um. The same can occur in butoh with movement, especially butoh improvisation, yet we do not want to lose authenticity by filling in gaps (fluff) with something that merely looks butoh. At the same time, we may be subtle about the filler, mumble, or chaos. The following can be thought of as potential or ready states that may serve well for jumping into the next qualia.

1. Sway/Seaweed — The entire body is kept moving in random directions as if one were seaweed. This is also a very important form of nurture, excellent for butoh warmup.

2. Statue/Stone — The statue or freeze, but full of potential energy can be embodied.

3. Fade Out/Fade In — The prior qualia can be extended. Think of a fade out. Overlap the next qualia fade in with the end of the fadeout like the crossfade of a DJ music session. See Figure 1.

4. Loop — Looping the movement until something spontaneously generates.

5. Mirror — If one is not the only one in the space, mirror somebody else.

6. Embellish — Extend whatever world you are currently in by embellishing it, fluffing it out for all it is worth.

Exercise: Music & White Noise

If you have a radio available, turn the knobs and tune into both the white noise static and the music. At the moments of white noise, you are to embody filler, idle, or scribble, and when there is music, a free resonance movement of choice. Sometimes there may be both white noise and music, and so this will result in a combination of free resonance movement and filler, idle, or scribble.

Slipping & Dodging

One of the four basic defense strategies of boxing includes slipping, which gets its name from the idea of slipping away from punches generally from the top of the body. The same idea can be executed with butoh in varying degrees of intensity or subtlety and with various locations of the body. The following exercises are to condition the sporadic and ready movements which take on the form of a scribble, but can later be taken down in tempo. Utilize reduction & regeneration as needed.

Exercise 1: Slip Ropes/Threads

Put ropes or threads across a space in varying heights, intersecting. Slip between them in every way imaginable, utilizing every direction of the engaged body part (boxing engages with the head, but you can engage with any body part you wish). The ropes can also be waved so as to have a moving obstacle.

Exercise 2: Marbles

In a confined floor space, spread out marbles. You will be slipping from these marbles with the feet. Some of the marbles will move. Keep yourself in constant quick movement.

Exercise 3: Dodge Ball/Bubbles

Utilizing the entire space, the participants are to dodge an inflatable ball or blown bubbles.

Exercise 4: Hot Coal

There is a hot coal floating around in the body and you must move in order for the coal to not touch any surface for more than a millisecond else you will get burned.


This is almost the reverse of slipping. This practice amasses multiple objects very quickly and also makes use of scribble type movements in order to jump from one object to the other more efficiently. See following exercise for example. Utilize reduction & regeneration by X as needed.

Exercise 1: 52 Card Pickup

A playing card deck is thrown into the air and the participants pick them up as quickly as possible.

Exercise 2: Bubble Catcher

When bubbles are blown, try and catch every single one of them in the air. Try also utilizing certain body parts.

Exercise 3: Butoh Goalie

Take on the movements of a goalie.


¹ Viala, Jean and Masson-Sekine, Nourit, Butoh: Shades of Darkness. Shufunotomo, 1988.
² Calamoneri, Tanya. Becoming Nothing to Become Something: Methods of Performer Training in Hijikata Tatsumi’s Buto Dance. pHD dissertation. Page 94.
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