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About Rebellious Bodies Festival

Rebellious Bodies is a brand new festival set up to re-introduce butoh to a UK audience. The festival brings together the world's best butoh performers, butoh-inspired performers and butoh experimentalists to share their rich decades of experience through exclusive, potentially once-in-a-lifetime showings of rare work that has never been seen before in the UK.

What is Butoh?

An avant-garde performance-based art originating in post-war Japan, created by a group of Japanese artists, led by Tatsumi Hijikata and including Kazuo Ohno. Although it has roots in 1920s German modern dance, it was a groundbreaking form that shook Western dance concepts. Kinjiki (Forbidden Colours) by Tatsumi Hijikata in 1959 is often cited as the first butoh performance, and since the 1970s it has become increasingly well known internationally.

 

What first began as a series of groundbreaking performances in the 1960s are now an integral part of 20th-century dance history. Butoh has achieved international acclaim, spanning borders, generations and geography, and is a significant influence on contemporary art and performance around the world.

The Main Founders

Tatsumi Hijikata (1928-1986)

Born in Akita prefecture (Japan) in 1928, Hijikata Tatsumi moved to Tokyo after the Second World War. Unsatisfied with the many Wester styles of dance he was studying, he began working on a new form and presented Kinjiki in 1959, which came to be known as the first butoh performance. Throughout the 1960s he produced a series of 'happenings' and experimental works imbued with violence and eroticism. He became a pioneering force in the Japanese avant-garde, laying the foundation for butoh with other leading cultural figures of his time. From the 1970s, he devoted himself to creating work based on his native Tohoku, and developing a new methodology using butoh-fu [butoh notation].

Kazuo Ohno (1906-2010)

Born in 1906 in Hakodate, Hokkaido (Japan). While working as a physical education teacher, he studied modern dance under Baku Ishii, Eguchi Takaya and Miya Misako. Following a nine-year hiatus due to the Pacific War, he continued with his dance practice. In the 1960s he collaborated regularly with Tatsumi Hijikata, exploring a deeply personal style of expression. In 1977 his solo Admiring La Argentina, a tribute to the legendary flamenco dancer Antonia Mercé, whom Ohno had seen perform when he was younger, won universal accolades. In 1980 he launched his international career with an appearance at the World Theatre Festival in Nancy, electrifying the world of dance. Well into his nineties, Ohno continued to grace the stage in Japan and overseas.

Yoshito Ohno (1938-2020)

Born in Tokyo in 1938, Yoshito Ohno played the role of a young boy in Tatsumi Hijikata's Kinjiki in 1959, and participated in ankoku-butoh [dance of darkness] performances during the 1960s. He stopped performing in public after his first solo recital in 1969, but made a comeback when he joined his father Kazuo Ohno in The Dead Sea in 1985. Throughout the 2000s, he collaborated with numerous artists and dancers, notably the musician Anohni. He also toured Europe, Brazil and China with his solo Flowerbird, which premiered in 2013.

Recommended Research List

For anyone with an interest in pursuing their understanding of butoh, we have compiled the following list:

Dance Archive Network

Organisation managing the Kazuo Ohno and Yoshito Ohno archives, Dance Archive Network regularly produces new dance performances and festivals inspired by their collection. Their website includes a growing digital archive, accessible in both Japanese and English.

https://dance-archive.net/en/

Butoh Choreo Lab

A project set up during Covid, this series videos features 7 highly prolific contemporary Japanese butoh dancers, including Mitsuyo Uesugi. Videos are in Japanese, with English and Vietnamese subtitles (click "cc" in the bottom right corner of the video to turn on subtitles). 

https://butohchoreolab.com/

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