Get Messed Up: Intentionality, Butoh and Freedom in Plasma


  • Sondra Fraleigh State University of New York, Brockport



phenomenology, non-human studies, performativity and theatricality, embodied knowledge


Nature relative to subjectivity is an under theorized area of performance philosophy, one that we ignore at our peril. There is such a thing as nature. It encompasses all that humans are not, and suffuses all that we are and do. It is not merely a social or cultural construction, as we consider in this essay. In order to speak more definitively of nature and the body, we employ the phenomenology of Paul Ricoeur and reach back to the lifeworld (lebenswelt) philosophy of Edmund Husserl. Some read Husserl as an essentialist, but there are other readings, such as the one developed here. One of Ricoeur’s major works, Freedom and Nature: the Voluntary and the Involuntary, concerns motives and values at the organic level, studying how habits inform individual habitus and become embodied as nature in flux. Accordingly, this essay explores subjectivity, intentionality and nature in performance using examples from butoh relative to metamorphosis, a ubiquitous process in the rhythms and multi-tiered rhizomes of nature. Through Sartre and Ricoeur, the text also considers lived values of freedom relative to intention. In this light, readers are invited to explore their own porousness and evaporations via Freedom in Plasma, a butoh to do at the end of the essay.

Author Biography

Sondra Fraleigh, State University of New York, Brockport

Professor of Dance, Emeritus, Department of Dance State University of New York College at Brockport

Sondra Fraleigh is professor emeritus of dance at the State University of New York (SUNY Brockport), a Fulbright Scholar and award-winning author of nine books. She has also published numerous book chapters. Fraleigh was chair of dance at State University of New York at Brockport and later head of graduate dance studies, also selected as a university-wide Faculty Exchange Scholar. She received the Outstanding Service to Dance Award from CORD in 2003, and was a teaching fellow at Ochanomizu University in Tokyo in 1990. At her Eastwest Somatics Institute, Fraleigh develops and teachers her own style of somatics work internationally, including intuitive dance with influences from butoh, her Land to Water Yoga techniques, and Shin Somatics® Bodywork. Phenomenology infuses her somatics perspective.


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How to Cite

Fraleigh, S. (2019). Get Messed Up: Intentionality, Butoh and Freedom in Plasma. Performance Philosophy, 4(2), 374–392.