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The dance of utter darkness: Pedagogy for the outsider

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Thesis type
(Thesis) Ph.D.
Date created
The rationale of this study is to explore the connections between body-being, morality and transformative learning by examining particular contexts of butoh dance. By approaching the phenomenon of butoh through the lens of art, aesthetics and ethics, as well as incorporating a socio-political-historical perspective, I aim to understand this form for the transgressive and thus, regenerative powers it contributes to art and life. Transgressive art does not attempt to deny the structure of civilized social life but rather re-orders it by highlighting excluded, often taboo behaviors and provoking us to accept life whole-heartedly as a paradox, without firm ideas of right and wrong. I am intrigued by the idea of butoh/ dance as a non-coercive, non-verbal tool for communication; not simply as an aesthetic or artistic expression but potentially as a highly dismantling framework through which to question social norms. Butoh dance seeks to rupture the safe, intact and socially defined boundaries which normally encompass cultures specifically through language, and it asks what relation language has to the experiential knowledge of the flesh, a very post-modern concern. Butoh, when framed within the context of modern dance- itself a harbinger for the radical post-modern wave, represents a still subversive form of art in 2019.This is partly because it challenges epistemologies based on the superiority of linguistic representation. Butoh is integrally associated with ritual and is most often defined by the aesthetic qualities of darkness and depth. It is considered a philosophy, a spiritual practice, and even a way of life. This form provides an unmatched profundity, often by way of the dark subconscious and shadow sides of life because butoh draws deeply from the collective unconscious, questing for self-knowing through depth, breadth, emptiness and crisis. The pedagogical implications of this subversive art form are massive, for butoh offers entrance to those at the outer edges of the social structure; butoh offers a dwelling place to the marginalized.
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Scholarly level
Supervisor or Senior Supervisor
Thesis advisor: MacKinnon, Allan
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