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About Kazuo Ohno

Takao Kawaguchi
Bessie award nominated contemporary dance inspired by Kazuo Ohno 

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. 

Click here to read the Artist Statement

4 November @ Rich Mix, London

£20 / £16 conc.

7 November @ Moseley Community Hub, Birmingham

From £18 / £15 accessible

Workshop + performance / 3-day pass also available

12 November @ ArtHouse Jersey, Jersey

Day £15 / Weekend £25

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Workshops

with Takao Kawaguchi

A rare opportunity to learn from Bessie-award nominated Japanese contemporary dance pioneer Takao Kawaguchi.


Takao Kawaguchi is a well established Japanese contemporary dancer, and was a member of the prolific experimental performance group DUMB TYPE from 1996. In 2000 he embarked on a solo career, performing About Kazuo Ohno and The Sick Dancer worldwide. He has directed the Tokyo International Lesbian & Gay Film Festival (1996–99), and was Artistic Director for TOKYO REAL UNDERGROUND festival in 2021.

No dance experience necessary.

3 November @ Rich Mix, London

£35 (Pay what you can available by email)

8 November @ Moseley Community Hub, Birmingham

£30 (Pay what you can also available)

Takao Kawaguchi

Biography

Takao Kawaguchi is a well established Japanese contemporary dancer, who developed his career in experimental theatre forming ATA DANCE company with Atsuko Yoshifuku in 1990, and joining the prolific experimental performance group DUMB TYPE in 1996. In the year 2000 he embarked on a solo career, while also continuing to collaborate with a number of international artists such as Dick Wong, Koichi Imaizumi and Jonathan M. Hall. In addition to his work as a performer, he has also directed the Tokyo International Lesbian & Gay Film Festival (1996–99), translated Derek Jarman’s Chroma, appeared in Edmund Yeo’s short film KINGYO (which was invited to the 2009 Venice Film Festival) and in Chikako Yamashiro’s The Beginning of Creation, Abduction / A child (2015). He was also the Artistic Director for NPO Dance Archive Network’s TOKYO REAL UNDERGROUND festival in 2021.

Artist Statement

"I never watched Kazuo Ohno dance on stage, not while he was alive. But now I see him in photographs and videos. It’s always very beautiful, and though I cannot explain it well, I feel a certain affinity for the twists and undulations of his movements. It even feels sensual. Maybe I have a similar quality within me?


A star in the modern dance scene in Japan’s post-war era, Kazuo Ohno performed a number of very unique dance works. When he encountered Tatsumi Hijikata, the chemical reaction between the two gave birth to butoh dance. In the ten years following Ohno’s retirement from the stage, he made The Portrait of Mr. O and two other films with director Chiaki Nagano. In 1977, at the age of 72, Ohno made the spectacular comeback to the scene with Admiring La Argentina. From then on he went around the world performing and helping the rest of the world discover butoh. He remained active dancing until he passed away in 2010 at the age of 103. Hijikata described Ohno as “dancer of deadly poison, capable of striking with just a spoonful” while others have described his work as a “dance of soul.”


In this performance entitled About Kazuo Ohno which has caused a controversy within Tokyo’s dance establishment, I set myself the task of literally “copying” the dance of the butoh master from video recordings of the premiere performances of Ohno’s early masterpieces including Admiring La Argentina (1977), My Mother (1981), and Dead Sea, Ghost, Wienerwaltz (1985).


Usually characterized as largely improvisational, Ohno’s dance is unique not only for his age but also for the distinctive features of his body and movements which are essential to his dance. An attempt to copy his dance as it is, no more no less, means nothing but to suspend whatever interpretation the copier may have as well as his own beliefs, and to project himself onto the forms and shapes of the old dancer as exactly as possible. The closer it gets, however, the clearer the gap becomes, minimum but inevitable no matter how hard he tries to diminish it. The paradox here is that this very gap, nonetheless, highlights the very distinct characteristics of the copier. Copy is original.


The viewer layers the reminiscence of Kazuo Ohno onto my body, and those who don’t know Ohno’s dance, their imagination of it. The multiple images of Ohno and myself merge, surface and recede in turn. About Kazuo Ohno is, in a sense, a duet I dance with the illusory image of Kazuo Ohno".

Takao Kawaguchi

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