Performing Everyday Things: Ecosomatic Threads of Butoh, Phenomenology, and Zen


  • Sondra Fraleigh Eastwest Somatics Institute


This essay engages descriptive, experiential methods of phenomenology, prompts from butoh, and insights of Zen Buddhism. Butoh is the dance and theatre form that arose from the ashes of Japan in the shadow of ecological and social crisis after the Second Word War. It is interpreted widely in current forms that extend well beyond the borders of Japan. The everyday is articulated in the phenomenology of Husserl, Heidegger and Merleau-Ponty, particularly through concepts of “worlding,” how our works ripple out to create a world, as phenomenology and Zen both hold, each in their own way. I write about butoh through a prism of Zen and phenomenology because they share similar philosophical outlooks on performance, and they explain everyday things. In articulating performance of the everyday, this essay takes an ecosomatic turn inward toward matters of consciousness and perception. The writing stems from my participation in butoh as a student, performer, and scholar since 1985, my university teaching of dance and somatics, and my philosophical and lived investigations of phenomenology and Buddhism. Through phenomenology, the essay is descriptive, performative, and concerned with “lived experience,” including how features of experience appear and transform in consciousness.


Author Biography

Sondra Fraleigh, Eastwest Somatics Institute

Sondra Fraleigh is founding director of the Eastwest Somatic Institute for Dance and Movement Studies and the author of six books on dance and movement philosophy published by university presses. She is professor of dance emeritus and was the chair of the Department of Dance at the State University of New York at Brockport for nine years, later directing the graduate dance program there. Fraleigh is certified in the Feldenkrais Method of Somatic Education. She has also been an elected Faculty Exchange Scholar for the State University of New York. Fraleigh is ERYT (experienced registered yoga teacher) with Yoga Alliance at the advanced 500-hour level. She teaches yoga, depth-movement dance, and somatic workshops at several locations in the United States, Europe, Japan, and New Zealand. Fraleigh’s home and that of Eastwest Somatics is in the beautiful Red Rock country of Southwest Utah.