Michael Sakamoto is one of the leading practitioners of Butoh-based, dance theater in North America as well as an interdisciplinary artist active in performance, media, and photography. His works have been presented in Thailand, Japan, Mexico, and throughout Europe and North America, including as a featured artist in the Vancouver International Dance Festival, NOW Festival at REDCAT in Los Angeles, and the Bangkok International Butoh Festival. As a university/college-level educator, Michael mentors MFA students and has led courses and workshops in interdisciplinary performance, Butoh dance, contemplative movement, and performative writing.
Michael has developed a unique integration of mind/body techniques culled over nearly two decades from numerous Butoh lineages, Body Weather Laboratory, Rachel Rosenthal’s DbD (Doing by Doing), and Zen meditation and philosophy practices. His workshops focus on beginning from the student’s own mind/body instrument as the raw practice material. One’s life experience determines how one structures the physical, emotional, and moral dimensions of expression. Honest communication empowers artists to readily and fully relate themselves to their environment and to bring their full creative palette to bear on the widest possible arena.
Michael has used this approach in movement training for both dancers and physical character development for actors, employing dialectic modes of physical and mental image exercises to deconstruct socialized exterior personae and allow one’s instincts to re-synthesize their mind/body instruments and re-connect to the world around them. Regardless of the type of performer or whether one is working from choreography or a script, this mode of training fosters one’s ability to reveal a comfortable and confident energetic center, and become and remain fully present in one’s role.
Artistically, Michael’s work centers on deconstruction and resolution of social binaries rooted in cultural, national, gender, and personal biases. He strives to create performances that establish a liminal energetic space, allowing the audience to reflect, inquire, and resonate with the work, both individually and collectively. His choreographic principles draw equally from inside and outside the dance realm, placing equal weight on structure, improvisation, character/persona, and humanity. Michael aims to constantly recreate for himself how to embody beauty, darkness, and the ineffable through movement and corporeality as well as generate a shared space for exchange, dialogue, and benevolence with audiences. As a dancemaker focused on how daily life challenges and self-perception manifest in our bodies, Michael stresses inquiry into the holistic nature of gesture, energy, sensation, presence, landscape, and the mutable framing of time.
M.F.A., Dance, University of California, Los Angeles
Faculty, MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts Program, Goddard College, 2010-Present
“Mind/Body/Time: Cultivating Character Through Movement” (workshop) –
“Killing the Buddha: Zen and Butoh-Based Movement Practice” (workshop) –
Meet the Composer
“Parallels Of Psycho-Physiological and Musical Affect in Trance Ritual and Butoh Performance,” Pacific Review of Ethnomusicology, UCLA, 2009
Selected Conference Presentations:
“Killing the Buddha: A Zen and Butoh-Based Model for Movement Training and Ritual Performance”
“Mind/Body/Time: Fundamentals for Teaching Interdisciplinary Performance”
“Imagined Innocence Lost: The Performance of Post-Indigeneity in Hosoe Eikoh and Hijikata Tatsumi’s Kamaitachi”
Los Angeles Theatre Center/LACAD, Los Angeles, CA
Camac, centre d’art Marnay art centre, Marnay-sur-Seine, France
Michael’s dance theater works have been presented at (selected list): Asian Art Museum, San Francisco, CA; Chiang Mai Art Museum, Chiang Mai, Thailand; Bangkok International Butoh Festival, Bangkok, Thailand; Tactan Festival, Osaka, Japan; UCLA World Arts and Cultures, Los Angeles, CA; Loxodonta Black, Osaka, Japan; Origins Thailand, Bangkok, Thailand; UC Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA; Highways Performance Space, Santa Monica, CA; Conduit Dance Inc., Portland, OR; Chiang Mai University Art Museum, Chiang Mai, Thailand; UCLA Fowler Museum, Los Angeles, CA; Dance Department, UC Riverside, Riverside, CA; Drama Department, UC Irvine, Irvine, CA; Vancouver International Dance Festival, Vancouver, Canada; REDCAT, Los Angeles, CA; Location One/Roulette, New York, NY; GAS Festival, Goteborg, Sweden Church Music Festival, Kristiansand, Norway; Audio Art Festival, Krakow, Poland Ostrava Festival, Ostrava, Czech Republic; Opava Festival, Opava, Czech Republic Nitra Puppet Theater, Nitra, Slovakia; Studio Art Department, UC Irvine, Irvine, CA; Miles Playhouse, Santa Monica, CA; Track 16, Santa Monica, CA; Los Angeles Theatre Center, Los Angeles, CA; Yugen Presents, San Francisco, CA; Santa Fe Film Festival, Santa Fe, NM; Institute for Studies in the Arts, Arizona State University; Performance Rodeo, camac, Marnay-sur-Seine, France; Res Artis 2000 International Conference, Los Angeles, CA; Performance Rodeo, camac, Marnay-sur-Seine, France; San Francisco Butoh Festival, San Francisco, CA; Fresh Tracks Performance Festival, JACCC, Los Angeles, CA; Philadelphia Fringe Festival, Philadelphia, PA; A-Fest Performance Festival, Seattle, WA; Ex-Teresa Int’l Performance Art Festival, Mexico City, Mexico