Div Shir at Breaking Convention / by Alkistis

I will perform Div Shir at Breaking Convention, the interdisciplinary conference on psychedelic consciousness which will be held at the University of Greenwich on 10th to 12th July 2015.

Butoh, and dance generally, is the unfolding of consciousness in movement. As such, it is also a means to explore, transform and navigate consciousness as it unfolds. Div Shir evolved from my research into the Olmec sculptures of the shaman transforming into a jaguar; and more specifically, experiments exploring the relationship of skull, spine and sacrum in the process of generation and transformation of consciousness, and as portals and passages connecting the realms of matter and spirit. These experiments primarily involve exploring movements, postures, dynamic stillness and breath work with visualisation, but also encompass working with psychoactive plants and entheogens in both moving (trance) and still (ecstatic) meditative situations. My research was initially motivated by the body, and its inherent sensory and kinetic potential, being the abiding, animate ground of our existence, and our capacity to become, and to transform.
 

Shaman Undergoing Transformation. Mexico, Olmec, 900–300 B.C. Serpentine with traces of cinnabar (10.8 cm)

Shaman Undergoing Transformation. Mexico, Olmec, 900–300 B.C. Serpentine with traces of cinnabar (10.8 cm)

This research led to the creation of a mask or persona – the div shir; a psychophysical terrain or environment that is integral to the mask – the hunting ground; and an ‘inner choreography’ that connects the imaginal realm to the material and enables the dancer to project herself into the otherworld, at the same time conjuring that world for others. Div Shir references the ancient Iranian statuette of a lioness ‘demon,’ likely an Proto-Elamite divinity related to Inanna-Ištar, in which the forms of a lioness and woman are merged. The dance is a rite of of passage from human to divine animal, a being in which the erotic and sanguinary are compounded and who we encounter on the threshold. As noted by artist-scholar-dancer Michael Sakamoto: ‘Butoh is an aesthetic form of embodiment situated between and sharing aspects of both the identificatory state of possession and the window-opening/journeying state of shamanism.’ (Parallels of Psycho-Physiological and Musical Affect in Trance Ritual and Butoh PerformancePacific Review of Ethnomusicology, Volume 14, 2009).