‘Beware The Word'


arts-based research

How to Cite

Shannon, J. (2021). ‘Beware The Word’: Butoh, Ethnotheatre, and The Limits of Speech. PARtake: The Journal of Performance As Research, 4(1). https://doi.org/10.33011/partake.v4i1.915


This paper considers the potential of utilizing ethnotheatre methods to investigate the experiences of butoh artists and practitioners as they struggle to verbalize the dance of the ineffable. While an unlikely approach, ethnotheatre-based research may offer an alternative methodology for grappling with the ineffable and the inarticulate in performance as an intermediary research process capable of not only attending to but foregrounding both language and the places where language fails through and of the body, utilizing language to foreground its limits. Through the labor of creating a script for performance, it offers a method of textual engagement within movement practice, one that gives data a body through which to ‘speak’ or express meaning. For the purposes of butoh research, its formal processes allow us to bring the silences and struggles with language into greater relief, spotlighting them, in a performance context. As an arts-based research methodological thought experiment, this paper seeks to demonstrate how taking an ethnotheatre approach to butoh research may provide captivating insight into the art of butoh, as well as yield a different kind of evidence of or living testimony to the operative force of language and the creative possibilities of failure.