Butoh on screen
Free DVD screening hosted by butoh artist Tess de Quincey
In conjunction with the exhibition Eikoh Hosoe: theatre of memory
Butoh is a dance form that emerged in Japan in the aftermath of World War II when many artists and intellectuals were struggling to shake off the weight of Japanese tradition as well as the overpowering force of Westernisation ensuing from the US occupation. Pioneers Tatsumi Hijikata (1928-1986) and Kazuo Ohno (1906-2010) sought to formulate a new dance style that would be true to their ethnic roots and Japanese physicality, freeing the body from conventional ideals of beauty. They also drew inspiration from the art and poetry of Dadaism, Surrealism and existentialist Theatre of the Absurd as well as the expressive Neue Tanz from Germany. Hijikata created the term ankoku butoh, or ‘dance of darkness’, to denote a cosmological dance which departed completely from existing dance movements to explore the taboo and the extreme, the psychological and physical, in short, the most hidden, dark side of human emotions.
From the 1970s, new generations of butoh dancers have emerged in Japan and abroad. Their different approaches lead to a diversification in butoh dance, so much that today butoh is defined by its very evasion of definition: it has no fixed style.
1pm Butoh: Piercing the mask
Dir: Richard Moore 1991, 49 mins
Archival and modern footage of leading butoh performers – Dai Rakuda Kan, Hakutobo, Kazuo Ohno – and interviews with butoh specialists is used to throw light on the essential butoh themes of darkness, violence and eroticism. Going beyond its examination of butoh as dance, Butoh: Piercing the Mask delves into the relationship between culture and society. It portrays butoh as a primal scream, uttered at a time when the post-war invasion of Japan by Western cultural and social conventions forced artists to re-invent their own identity.
1.50pm Short break
2.15pm Comment by Tess de Quincey
Tess de Quincey is a choreographer and dancer who has worked extensively in Australia and Europe as a solo performer, teacher and director. Based in Japan from 1985 until 1991, she was a dancer for six years with butoh artist Min Tanaka and his Maijuku performance group which has provided the strongest influence on her work in performance.
2.30pm Butoh: Body on the edge of crisis
Dir: Michael Blackwood 1991, 89 mins
Shot on location in Japan Butoh: Body on the edge of crisis is a visually striking film portrait created with the participation of the major butoh choreographers and their companies. This documentary acts as a history of the art form through performance footage and comments by artists including Min Tanaka and Maijuku; Yoko Ashikawa and Hakutobo; Akaji Maro and Dai Rakuda Kan; Kazuo Ohno; Isamu Ohsuka and Byakko-sha; Natsu Nakajima and Muteki-sha; Sankaijuku; and Tatsumi Hijikata.
Image: Eikoh Hosoe Kazuo Ohno 1996 (detail) from the series The butterfly dream 1960-2005 © Eikoh Hosoe / Courtesy Studio Equis