Imre Thormann, one of the most renowned Butoh dancers from Europe, is also a teacher of Noguchi Taiso – a special technique, which is based on integrating the natural principles of movement into the body.
∞OS practice is very much inspired from Imre’s work, especially the aspects of his practice based on activating the natural principles – like the spirals and waves – through the gravity flow within the body.
In September 2017 we took an interview with Imre at his garden in South France (which he built using the same movement principles that he teaches). We asked him to talk about his practice and various aspects of it.
Below are the video excerpts and the transcript of this interview.
In the first part Imre Thormann talks about the movement practice and how important it is to integrate training into your everyday life.
In the next video Imre Thormann talks about the basic movement principles of his practice: natural movement based on gravity, spirals and waves. He also encourages dancers to not only practice the movement itself, but also to open themselves to the emotions contained within this movement. In Imre’s words “every movement has an emotion and every emotion has a movement”.
Imre often likes to use objects to demonstrate those principles of movement. In the next excerpt he uses a toy – a dog puppet – to show what he means by “being moved” by the gravity. A special technique where instead of consciously making a move you let the movement happen to you, letting it go through the whole body, making the movement much more honest and wholesome. He also says that for him this practice is about cleaning the body from all the influences of society, of the parents, allowing oneself to be moved by the nature and to find the beauty inside.
In the video below Imre demonstrates the movement principles he explains above using the toy through his own body:
Part 1: Physical Practice and Implementing Natural Principles into the Movement
Question: Can you tell us a little bit about your practice? What is it like?
I do my waking up in the morning, having my tea… often i sit… i sit a lot… i’m practicing sitting. In Japanese […] means correct sitting, so i really to try focus on the sitting on feeling my spine… Feeling the small movements, sitting on my bones,, standing on my bones, very small, tiny movements… this can take a while…
Then what i try is to apply the movements i do into my daily life. which means when i train i do something… when i cook i try to train…
There’s often this question among dancers: how many hours do you train a day?
So if you maybe say, oh, I train 3-4 hours a day… maybe it’s a bit of a lie… maybe you can say 5… They think wow great amazing… long, good training!
And i always think… or i’ll ask them… what you do the rest of the day? What you do the rest of the 12 hours, for example, because you are awoke maybe 16 hours a day… so then in these 16 hours, those 3 hours you train… of course, you do it concentrated… but it’s not so much, if you compare it to the rest of the day
So i try to apply [those principles] into the rest of the day… like when i walk i move my feet, i practice my walking. Or when i turn, i practice turnings, and all the things… I of course do also in the daily training, or when I teach, I then try to do it in my daily life.
Then of course it’s not just the physical practice. It’s the watching, it’s being touched by things, it can be small things.
Now since i’m here often in the garden, I’m touched from plants, from stones, from animals, from the wind… and i try to include that in my daily training…
Question: What are those principles of movement that you are talking about, that you are training?
Basically my teacher, now when it comes to Noguchi Taiso – a kind of japanese body work – he was often talking about principles of nature, which of course is a very wild… wide… word or field. But you can say physically, for example, it’s the gravity, that you work with the gravity. When you work with the gravity, you work with the waves… you work with the spirals, you try to apply those principles in your body as a true feeling. It means you be~come to them, because you are them…
Even your DNA is based on a spiral, a lot of movements are based on the spirals. a lot of techniques they talk about the spirals. A lot of techniques or movements are also based on waves… So you try to apply that through different exercises, physical exercises, to feel that… how this wave is passing your body, and also how it passes passively…
So it’s not something that you do… you actually try to create conditions in your body… that your body starts to move naturally… i don’t really like too much that [word] “naturally”, because also when i’m like that it’s natural. When i’m closed [in my body], it’s also natural. There’s always a reason, and a natural reason. Whether it is anger or pain or sadness, and that of course is also involved in that… in that work inside… You see what the movement is doing with you, not just physically… physically you try to find the lines… hanging lines… the structure in your body… becoming that structure… But all of those lines, in the end, they have an expression, an expression into the space, a physical expression, but also a mental… an emotional expression. And that also you somehow have to learn… [The movement] goes together with [emotions]…
I always encourage people when they train… that they train both together. For me it’s senseless if you do the movement just physically, because that is not possible. You can say every movement has its emotion, as well as every emotion has its movement. So it doesn’t really matter where you start, but try to put them together
One of the main principles, when you move, is that you can see that I am moved. [Imre takes out a toy, which is a little wooden dog-puppet, which moves when you pull the strings under it]. If you look, you see that i release the tension from down [pulls the string of the dog and it moves gradually], so the movement starts from down, and then it just collapses from down… Then when it pushes into the floor
or it’s being pulled into the floor… gradually gradually gradually it’s coming up.. You can even see the movement of the ears – they are related to the floor.
Somehow that of course… there are several physical movements, which you can do to train that. You can find relation to the floor through your bones, you can find the lines, the hanging lines, when it’s hanging, and then when you push down into the floor, physically this movement goes through your whole body, and the head is the last thing, which is standing.
Also… it’s not just a physical thing. You can see here nicely that I am touched by this movement! It touches me… it moves me… That is actually nice in the language. In the language you say “i am touched”, “i am moved”. I look into that and even though i don’t do the movement, it moves me, it touches me. That’s a mechanism we have in our brain that has a lot to do with mirror neurons, but also with feelings, with compassion.. maybe.. that you feel other people, aware about other people. So therefore it’s important that this movement is clean.
I always ask people what’s the difference between this guy and you guys. Of course, there are many differences… One main difference is that it has no parents, it has no alcoholic depressed mother and maybe aggressive violent father. So… the movement is more or less, on one hand, 100% physical, 100% necessary. according to the physique of the being. And that’s what i want to do in my movements as well – to clean… to clean my movements from a lot of influence… that can be of course parents… or society… and to come more to this native [natural] body.
It’s a lot of cleaning, I would say…
You can learn more about Imre Thormann’s work on his website, www.bodytaster.com. He also conducts regular workshops, where you can learn Butoh and Noguchi Taiso in his beautiful countryside house in South France, as well as participate in Work for Workshop training where you learn basic principles of natural movement applying them for garden and agriculture work.