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2023 Programme

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Multi-disciplinary event

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A Tribute to Yoshito Ohno 

Two Films, a Conversation and a Performance on Butoh

Opening Event: Butoh on Film

31 October 2023


Music & film by Chiharu MK feat. Kazuo Ohno

CAVE DANCE is a newly edited version of Mr O’s Book of the Dead (1973), a film featuring the late butoh dancer Kazuo Ohno and his students, overlaid with newly composed music by Chiharu MK. The film was originally shot in Ohno's hometown in Hokkaido, where Chiharu MK currently lives, by Chiaki Nagano - a documentary filmmaker who collaborated on a trilogy of experimental films with Kazuo Ohno called the Mr O Series. Mr O's Book of the Dead is the third film in the trilogy.

“Book of the Dead” originally referred to a funerary ritual document that was buried with the dead in ancient Egypt as a way of praying for their souls, and contained guidelines for the path to Aaru (paradise) from when the soul leaves the body, as well as instructions on what to say at when receiving their judgement in the afterlife. CAVE DANCE includes a scene reminiscent of an old Japanese custom called "Nobe-okuri", in which relatives and neighbours carry the coffin in a procession to the burial ground after the funeral. In Buddhism, the Sanzu River flows at the border between this world and the next. As Ohno dances mystically through the forest, it is as if he is dancing in a world on the way to the other side. The sound of the chime used is said to dispel evil spirits, and help one reach Paradise. Some of the sounds are processed from field recordings made in Hokkaido.

The music of this work was produced with respect, so that Ohno might hear it all the way from the other side.

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A Conversation:
1970’s Butoh in Tokyo and London

Talk with David Toop & Atsuko Kamura

Improvisation in dance and music through view of two musicians.

Butoh in Tokyo & London in the 1970s as recalled through dialogue and memories of Mitsutaka Ishii & Rain in the Face.

Watch the full talk here.


Boiler Room Dance

Live music performance by Dirty Electronics, with film featuring Kazuo Ohno.

An Evening of Experimental Performance and Live Music Inspired by Butoh

Butoh Experiments

2 November 2023

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Performed by Ben Jeans Houghton

Named after the philosophical term for reincarnation, this performance offers an opportunity to consider Butoh’s anarchic embodiment within the energetic ecosystem of a living cosmos, as explored by Gnostic Astrology. Gnostic pessimism purports to our souls being trapped in the illusory reality of a false god, whilst Gnostic optimism feels our souls elect to be embodied, in a tutelary theatre of transformation towards enlightenment.

Ben Jeans Houghton's ritual performances explore and express esoteric metaphysics through the magic of meaning making. This performance presents explicit parallels between the evolutionary implications of Gnostic Astrology, that pertain directly to the cataclysmic histories that inspired Butoh’s founders to dance the wound of darkness, that remains a hidden cornerstone of our most honest humanity.

The performance is scored to a narration, that via the personhood of an animism, takes us from the big bang, to the birth of suns - as roving god/desses on quests to transform, through the formation of solar systems - as a spiral dance of deific archetypes, that incepted the advent of life on a world stage, ghost written by the patterned light of distant stars, to a history of mind that demands we dance our shadow home.

Bodies of Light ensue from Darkness

Performed by Howlround & Merkaba Macabre

An expanded audiovisual performance inspired by the profound insights of Yoshito Ohno, this live collaboration explores the morphic states of Butoh born out of the chaotic post-war climate of Japan. The duo will perform a structured piece that resonates with the haunting soundscapes of early 1960s ‘Cine Dance', radiating in monochromatic intensity.

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Butoh Without Bodies

Newly composed music performed by Pascal Savy to film footage of butoh master Yoshito Ohno in action.


Flowerbird: A Tribute to Yoshito Ohno

3-5 November 2023
Rich Mix, London

Flowerbird: A Tribute to Yoshito Ohno was an exhibition honouring the late Yoshito Ohno, the last of three butoh founders, who passed away in 2020. The exhibition gave an insight into the development of Butoh as a concept, a philosophy, and a pioneering new style of dance movement, through the eyes and ears of Yoshito Ohno.

Photo: Nourit Masson Sekine


Hijikata Mon Amour


3 November 2023 / 11 November 2023
Rich Mix, London / Dance City, Newcastle

Hijikata Mon amour is an homage to the founder of Butoh Tatsumi Hijikata, created in 2019 in celebration of Butoh’s 60th anniversary. Vangeline performs in an exact replica of Tatsumi Hijikata’s 1968 costume (Hijikata and the Japanese: Revolt of the Body) recreated by Todd Thomas. The piece premiered October 24 through October 26, 2019, at the New York Butoh Institute Festival at Theater for the New City and received critical acclaim from the New York Press.

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Mitsuyo Uesugi

Melancholia -
A Portrait of M

3 November 2023 / 8 November 2023 / 11 November 2023
Rich Mix, London / Moseley Art School, Birmingham / ArtHouse Jersey, Jersey

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 by Mitsuyo Uesugi 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.


Uesugi, 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 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.

Photo: Makoto Onozuka

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About Kazuo Ohno

Takao Kawaguchi

4 November 2023 / 7 November 2023 / 12 November 2023
Rich Mix, London / Moseley Art School, Birmingham / ArtHouse Jersey, Jersey

About Kazuo Ohno is a contemporary dance piece inspired by one of the founders of butoh, Kazuo Ohno (1906-2010). Referencing archived footage of Ohno’s performances, Kawaguchi copies Ohno’s movements exactly, creating a choreography out of motions that were originally improvised. 


The piece begins with a reinterpretation of Ohno’s experimental film A Portrait of Mr. O (directed by Chiaki Nagano, 1969), and is then followed by sections from three performances originally directed by Tatsumi Hijikata: Admiring La Argentina (1977), My Mother (1981) and The Dead Sea (1985). 


Since premiering in 2013, About Kazuo Ohno has been performed in 38 cities worldwide, including at the Théâtre de la Ville in Paris, the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid, REDCAT in Los Angeles and at the Japan Society in New York. It was also nominated for a Bessie Award in New York in 2016. 

Photo: Tatsuhiko Nakagawa

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Butoh Across Borders

5 November 2023
Rich Mix, London

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A discussion on contemporary butoh dance by today’s leading academics, dancers and butoh experts.


Toshio Mizohata (Director of NPO Dance Archive Network)

Takao Kawaguchi (Performer - About Kazuo Ohno)

Mai Burns (Chair & Producer of the Rebellious Bodies Festival)

Mitsuyo Uesugi (Performer - Melancholia - A Portrait of M)

Vangeline (Performer - Hijikata Mon Amour)

Nick Parkin (Associate Lecturer at Goldsmiths University)

Helen Smith (Physical Theatre Performer, Teacher and Director)

Watch the full talk here.

Talk / Music

Metamorphosis of Darkness

6 November 2023
Moseley Art School, Birmingham
Talk and Discussion on Butoh

Hosted by Atsuko Kamura


Vicky Karkou  (Professor of Arts and Wellbeing, Director of the research centre for Arts and Wellbeing at Edge Hill University)

Genevieve Say (Artistic Director of Birmingham Dance Network)

Sandra Hall (Co-director and Lead ARTIST of Friction Arts)

Mitsuyo Uesugi (Butoh dancer)

Takao Kawaguchi (Dancer)

Butoh Film with Live Music by Matt Eaton

Matt Eaton (Pram) plays an original live music score for Butoh film.



Kamura Obscura

Butoh Inspired Music & Words

8 November 2023
Moseley Art School, Birmingham

A special prelude to Mitsuyo Uesugi's Melancholia - A Portrait of A.

Kamura Obscura (Atsuko Kamura and Natalie Mason) explores vocal improvisation with electronics, experimental composition with noise, viola, and lyrical yet surreal singing.

They have released several albums and the latest, "4 AM Diary” was reviewed by Stewart Lee: "4am diary is a nightclub cabaret in occupied territory, inscrutable subversion, discombobulation, kirsch-quaffing commissars.”- Idler, 2022.

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