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Melancholia -
A Portrait of M

Mitsuyo Uesugi
UK Premiere of a New Experimental Butoh Dance/Film Performance

Melancholia - A Portrait of M was originally commissioned for the DIGITAL//REALITY Festival, a festival reflecting on the digital world the performing arts had been thrown into as a result of Covid and its effect on society, as part of the Dance Dance Dance Triennale in Yokohama, Japan in 2021. Created in collaboration with film maker and butoh dancer Makiko Takamatsu, this work embodies the experimental approach to dance that butoh originally set out to achieve, by reflecting the world we live in today.


Mitsuyo, who has been performing butoh for over 50 years, considers this her most relevant work today and plans to adapt and develop both the film and dance elements of the work with Makiko Takamatsu for this year’s tour to keep it fresh and current, while always drawing on the history and her experience of a space to bring to the audience a unique, one-time-only performance.


Artist Statement

3 November @ Rich Mix, London

£20 / £16 conc.

8 November @ Moseley Community Hub, Birmingham

From £18 / £15 accessible

Workshop + performance / 3-day pass also available

11 November @ ArtHouse Jersey, Jersey

£15 Day Ticket / £25 Weekend

Mitsuyo Uesugi_Melancholia-Portrait of M_© Makoto Onozuka_3_edited_edited.jpg


with Mitsuyo Uesugi

A rare opportunity to learn from the award-winning, Japan-based butoh dancer Mitsuyo Uesugi.
For anyone who has ever attempted a butoh workshop in Europe, be prepared to encounter the brilliantly and unabashedly Tokyo-based Mitsuyo Uesugi. Now 73 years old, she developed her own style under the wings of founder Kazuo Ohno for 50 years only to come forward with her own uniquely earthy and current ideas about butoh.

4 November @ Rich Mix, London

£35 (Pay what you can available by email)

7 November @ Moseley Community Hub, Birmingham

£30 (Pay what you can also available)

12 November @ ArtHouse Jersey, Jersey

£30 (Pay what you can also available)

Mitsuyo Uesugi


Award-winning* Mitsuyo Uesugi made a name for herself in Japan as one of the first female solo butoh dancers, after leaving a career in ballet to become a student of butoh founder Kazuo Ohno at the age of 20. In 1973 she appeared in Kazuo Ohno's experimental film Mr O’s Book of the Dead, and created her first butoh solo, Guren-yakyoku in 1975. She has since performed numerous times all over the world, and collaborated with dancers, musicians and theatre makers notably from France, after spending a number of years there. She has also toured the US, and performed at the V&A and The Place in London. Most recently she has expressed a renewed interest in pursuing the experimental, and was invited to perform at the Aparte Festival in Norway in 2022 as part of a collaborative physical theatre piece. Now 73, Mitsuyo Uesugi is one of a rapidly diminishing generation of butoh dancers still active today.

*Dance Critics Society of Japan Award: Baby Melancholia—Dream of Six Nights (2009)

Mitsuyo Uesugi_Melancholia-Portrait of M_© Makoto Onozuka_7_edited_edited.jpg

Artist Statement

"When I first set foot on the stage having been invited to work on this project, I felt a surge of excitement through my body. I was aware of the history of the space I was in, and despite the brightened atmosphere, I could feel a stagnant darkness permeating the space.

The atmosphere and layers of time in space draw me in, and having given myself up to the reveries of my body whilst shooting the film, I worked towards Melancholia—A Portrait of M.

The space around us persists in its reality. Even with all the limitations on performances we have at the moment, the space around us continues to exist without change.

What kind of work can I give birth to in such an environment?

The excessive greed of humans that has grown throughout history continues to do so with no end in sight.

Melancholia - M - is the part of me that both loves and is troubled by those that live on in my heart. We women have always grieved for this world.

As a butoh dancer, I chose to express the excessive greed of my body in film (the unreal/digital), and place on the stage my body as a shell (to be filled with that present reality). These were my thoughts while devising this work. Digital and reality.

I am unsure of where the boundary is.


After performing this piece for the first time, I saw that every moment was an invitation; the pulsating transformation of the space, the reality of the gaze of the audience. The trembling, the fear, the courage, the joy. The breath of each person swirling with energy. The wind whispering with the sound of insects. 

Dance is pneuma. Energy.

I am alive.

This has been a profound experience for me.

I am deeply grateful that we were able to go ahead with this performance

despite the pandemic, for the guidance of my teacher Kazuo Ohno

and his son Yoshito Ohno, and for the support of all who helped make it happen."

Mitsuyo Uesugi

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