BUTOH – Experiments, Provocations and Inspirations: an Endless Trip in the Footsteps of Kazuo Ohno & Tatsumi Hijikata

Anita Zdrojewska
(Pompka Foundation, PUBLINK Agency)

BUTOH has always been very problematic. Both among the researchers and practitioners it evokes heated debates concerning the definition, origin and future of this art discipline. It provokes but also inspires.

Dance, which played a great role in the culture of Japan, in case of butoh underwent a very particular metamorphosis. Even though the dance education of both its creators – Kazuo Ohno and Tatsumi Hijikata has its origins in a then fashionable German trend of expressionist dance, the artists experimenting literally “with their own bodies” created “a dance that is above all dances” (Kazuo Ohno). Butoh did not fit into any category known until the day it was developed. In spite of numerous controversies related to the unpredictable performances, it was intriguing enough to find a permanent spot in the landscape of avant-guarde artistic events and intellectual debates of contemporary Japan.

It is interesting to examine to what extent butoh had and still has influence on other fields of art and to look for an answer to the question of what it is that makes this dance develop so dynamically today all over the world. What makes the butoh expansion last or even speed up?

Human body, which is an inspiration to artists across different disciplines, is used by butoh dancers in a very special way. Thanks to a specific practice and unique aesthetics butoh dancers operate a language that is timeless and supracultural. The communication code that they use provides the audience with extremely powerful experiences. Perhaps this is the “language of the soul”, described by Kazuo Ohno. Perhaps this language, in the times of ever-expanding information technology and ceaselessly intensifying intercultural and civilization contacts, is the only living link available to people beyond time and space. It does not let us forget about our humanity; it provokes and inspires. We will try to look at this matter, analysing the works of selected artists.