Statue & Freeze (Upd: Aug 31, ’22)

“True stillness is an enormous skill, a private dance within the body which allows an audience to really appreciate what comes before and after it.” – Tamzin Hale¹

Like in music and all arts, finding the best pause or space/ma is a skill. To pause in butoh style we’ll call to decom-pose.

Zeami, the 14th century Noh actor once said, “What [the actor] does not do is of interest.” One of Tatsumi Hijikata’s stunted/frozen in time state he called stuffed spring like that of a stuffed bird. Spring stood for life.4  Tanya Calamoneri says of the pause: “A simple pause before completing an action can build the tension of the moment, and subvert both audience and performer expectations.”5

One specific instance of frozen body is described by Hijikata: “Standing silently when there is nothing to be done, when it’s bad to try to do something and it’s also bad not to do it.”6

It’s better to remain frozen than to engage in movement that is not completely necessary or  stemming from the subconscious body. In this way, the freeze can be a safety manoeuvre on stage or a filler.

There are two forms of immobile states, one that has potential energy, and another that does not. Frozen states (the free-ze) may also be voluntary (surrender, acceptance, complete relaxation, collapsing prostration) or involuntary, which is a defense mechanism (depersonalization, checking out, freeze response). This state can be a stone resonance.

The statue or freeze is the extreme end of deterritorialization or reduction of movement. In the everyday human world, we are not accustomed to seeing somebody suddenly freeze on the spot.

Statue and freeze qualia can also resemble death.

Exercise 1: Statue with Wheels

Move about as if you were a statue with wheels. The feet shuffle their way from point a to point b. The feet do not stop touching the floor.

Exercise 2: Dizzy Statue (Intermediate)

Spin around for one or two minutes then utilize mind over matter to freeze into a statue.

Butoh-Fu Regarding Frozen Body

The following are Tatsumi Hijikata butoh-fu (except one “Smoke” by Yoko Ashikawa) regarding various frozen bodies translated by Yukio Waguri unless otherwise footnoted.9

Stick: (1) The Relation of Being Watched and Being Deprived of The Soul; (2) Strange Man With Frog On His Head; (3) Sleep Walker; (4) The Nerve Walk; (5) “Gaki”, The Hungry Demon; (6) Breeding Dust; (7) Quiet House10; (8) Sick Dancing Princess11; (9) Unidentified Jean Fautrier Painting12;

Wall: (1) Pollen; (2) Prince of Smoke; (3) Various Places; (4) Heavy Neck; (5) Auschwitz Walk; (6) Thin Wall of Pus Shining In White; (7) Celebration Within The Wall; (8) From Dolls to Ghosts; (9) You Live Because Insects Eat You; (10) “Dozo”, A Storage Building Made of Dried Mud; (11) World of Wall; (12) Flowers In The Wall; (13) Breeding Dust; (14) From Dry Dirt To Ghost; (15) Ghost Holding a Baby; (16) Smoke (Yoko Ashikawa Butoh-fu)13.

Contemporary Metaphor Theory

There is a reoccurring metaphor in language that draws a parallel between difficulty and impediments to motion (e.g. statue, freeze). This is called the primary metaphor of DIFFICULTIES ARE IMPEDIMENTS TO MOTION.7 So, if some psychophisiological edges/issues surface, it may be the body’s juxtaposition of these two ideas. This primary metaphor is rooted in the BLOCKAGE image schema, which entails “a force schema in which a force is physically or metaphorically stopped or redirected by an obstacle.”8

Other phenomena that also share this same image schema are floor and boundary.

The Freeze Response

Figure 1, Possum in Freeze Response

The psychophysiological freeze response (playing dead) derives from the stress modulators in the brain and is one of the survival mechanisms of animals. The difference in the freeze response between animals and humans resides in the response’s ending. Animals (if they are not eaten) will escape the freeze response and immediately release the tension via some form of sporadic movement (shakes or convulsions), while humans will have the tendency to keep the tension trapped in the body, resulting in trauma. This is exactly what Peter Levine talks about in his book Waking the Tiger.²

The freeze response works on borrowed time, and the victim must compensate by reengaging the fight or flight response or the culmination of both which can take on the form of shakes or convulsions. If the frozen state is entered voluntarily (the free-ze, surrender), however, the tension is already addressed prior or during the freeze, and little or no release after may be needed.

To Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: “Do anything with 100% and you will be able to drop it effortlessly. . . . When you can drop and quit in a moment, without getting frustrated, . . . you have retired back to the Self.”³

Isolation & Partial Statue

Everybody knows what a statue may look or feel like, but we can also form a chimera of statue and not statue. For instance, we can begin with feeling that everything from the pelvis down is a statue but the rest is not. We can essentially do this with any part of the body, no matter how small, but the smaller the part is the more difficult. We can also visualize that something clamps whatever part we’re focused on. For instance, we can picture that our entire head is clamped in space, but the rest of the body can move.

Exercise: Restrained by Partner

A partner can restrain a part of the body that is to be held in statue. The rest of the body is to move in whatever resonance.


The statue or freeze can be utilized as a means of tuning into the present moment or training the will. It is recommended to hold the breath when the stop happens.

Exercise 1: Stop! Steady Breath, No Tension

The following comes from instructions from a movement workshop from Celal Mordeniz of Tiyatro Medresesi.* At any given moment, especially if directed by somebody, suddenly freeze, but the breath remains steady as it was before the stop and limited or no new tension is generated by the sudden stop.

Exercise 2: Stop! Sudden Awareness

At any given moment, especially if directed by somebody, suddenly freeze and observe what one is feeling emotionally, physically, and mentally to the maximum. Refer to section Feeling to get an idea of all the varying ways in which we can feel.

Exercise 3: Stop! Desire

Same concept, but now, feel what it is that your heart desires at the very moment. Then follow that desire into a dance.

Exercise 4: Stop! Shut Down

Same concept, except now the mind is instantly shut down. Go into no-mind.

Exercise 5: Stop! Different Qualia

Same concept, except now a qualia is thrown out and the participant must change into it immediately after the stop is broken.

Exercise 6: Stop! Sigil Vaporizing (Intermediate/Advanced)

This exercise involves both sigils and vaporizing. We go from a very intense activity to a freeze (from the signal of an outside stimulus), in which case we will immediately visualize the dancing of the sigil in the vapor world.

Micrometer Movement (Hair-splitting)

This is movement that is so slow that the human can not really see that it is moving, so it appears as if you are in statue or freeze, but you know in fact that you are moving. Takeuchi Mika and Morita Itto who base their movement on Michizo Noguchi (of Noguchi Taiso) call this type of movement hair-splitting.14 

¹ Barbe, Frances. The Way of Butoh and Contemporary Choreography: Reflective. Writing on Choreographic Research. n.d. Web. 20 April 2010.
² Levine, Peter A. Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma : the Innate Capacity to Transform Overwhelming Experiences. Berkeley, Calif: North Atlantic Books, 1997. Print.
³ Shankar, Sri Sri Ravi, “Narada Bhakti Sutra: The Aphorisms of Love.” 2008. Bangalore. Page 7.
4 Lee, Rhizome. Behind The Mirror: A Butoh Manual For Students. 2010. Pages 263, 264.
5 Calamoneri, Tanya. Becoming Nothing to Become Something: Methods of Performer Training in Hijikata Tatsumi’s Buto Dance. PhD dissertation. Page 133. 2012.
6 Mikami, Kayo. Body as Receptacle: An Approach to the Technique of Ankoku Buto. Tokyo: ANZ-Do, 1993. Page 151.
Lakoff, G. (2008). The neural theory of metaphor. In R. Gibbs, Jr. (Ed.), The Cambridge Handbook of Metaphor and Thought (Cambridge Handbooks in Psychology, pp. 17-38). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
SIL Glossary of Linguistic Terms. Blockage Schema. 2020.
Waguri, Yukio, Butoh-Fu CD-Rom. 2006.
10 Lee, Rhizome. Behind The Mirror: A Butoh Manual For Students. 2010.
11 Ibid. The Butoh. First Edition. 2017. Pages 337 – 354.
12 Calamoneri, Tanya. Becoming Nothing to Become Something: Methods of Performer Training in Hijikata Tatsumi’s Buto Dance. pHD dissertation. Page 43. 2012.
13 Ashikawa, Yoko. Translator unknown. Retrieved by Rhizome Lee with a note that it came from a workshop. Date retrieved: 10/22/2018 at the Subbody Butoh School in Dharamsala, India.
14 Fraleigh, Sondra & Nakamura, Tamah. Hijikata Tatsumi and Ohno Kazuo. NY, New York. 2006. Page 13.
* From movement workshop at Tiyatro Medresesi in Sirince, Turkey, Feb 11, 2022.
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