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What exactly is "Putoh?"



The Salons in 2001, between February and June--were the most exciting of times, the "Salons" at Katherine Adamenko's Apartment in 2001 included the first performances of the "Soft Cyborg," as well as the creation of "Putoh," which was/is an ahead of its time mixing of Japanese "Butoh" and a Latinx sensibility with a personal irreverence holding it all together.  Adamenko created a safe space for experimentation and for "avant garde" performance. It was the best of times!


With "Putoh" and the search for a Dada Dialectic and the Soft Cyborg Manifesto my performances took a turn for the theoretical when I went to Graduate School at UCDavis. 


Fellow student Katherine Adamenko and I met, if I remember correctly, either at a Butoh training in which we were asked to go through the life cycle of a flower or it was in a Performative Theory course in which we studied the work of Guillermo Gomez Pena, who I had met a few years earlier, as an undergraduate, either in one of Joanna Frueh's courses or Peter Goin's filmmaking class.


We quickly hit it off and invented "Putoh" together. Putoh is an irreverant mix of a Punk Chicano aesthetic and philosophy and the far more sedate, methodical and expressive Japanese Butoh.

But, What exactly is "Putoh?" 

"Putoh" is a hybrid in every sense of the word. Putoh celebrates individuality and intersectionality. Invented in the year 2000 at the University of California Davis, it is a portmanteau of ideas, vision and philosophies. Linguistically, the term "Putoh" is a fusion of two languages and two words.


Of course there is the Japanese Butoh, meaning, literally Dance. Mesh that with the Spanish-in this case-Mexican, gutter word Putoh. Which has many harsh and vulgar meanings, but which has a very similar etymological history to the word "Punk" and it is in that spirit that the two words were married. 

The performance form itself was created by two very different, yet very similar people, one Chicano--the other Cubana, pre-Latino, pre-Latinx, both feminists, both performance artists, both graduate students at the university of California, Davis.  Katherine Adamenko and Xavier Lopez came from very different backgrounds Xavier, a California Mexican American complete with a Valley girl brogue and Katherine Adamenko a New York City Jewish and Cuban/Spanish feminist performance artist with a huge personality were destined to create something that the world was not prepared for--something that refused to be categorized and which meshes many forms and many cultures, genders, philosophies and which will make more sense as we exit this age of atavistic essentialism and collective intellectual ethnocentrism.




Katherine Adamenko's Website

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