Butoh on Film: Darkness and Light

  • Sunday, June 6, 12:30 p.m. Naxoshalle Kino
  • curated by Chris MaGee

In 1959 dancer and choreographer Tatsumi HIJIKATA created a new form of expressive dance which he called Ankoku Butoh. Originally a phenomenon of the Japanese avantgarde, HIJAKATA's dance, now known simply as butoh, has spread around the globe. Curated by Shinsedai Cinema Festival's Chris MaGee, BUTOH ON FILM: DARKNESS AND LIGHT presents a collection of rarely seen butoh films that explore both the work of Tatsumi HIJIKATA and Kazuo OHNO as well as contemporary dancers.

  • Gisei (Sacrifice)
  • Director: Donald Richie
  • Japan 1959, 10 min

Filmed only a few months after Tatsumi HIJIKATA's first explosive public butoh performance, GISEI features HIJIKATA and members of his Asbestos Hall Troupe in a brutal allegory of a closed society. Shot by noted Japanese film scholar Donald Richie, GISEI still conveys the shock that Japanese audiences in 1959 must have felt at the birth of HIJIKATA's ankoku butoh, or "dance of darkness".

  • Rose-Coloured Dance
  • Director: Takahiko IIMURA
  • Japan 1965, 13 min

Throughout the early to mid-60's Tatsumi HIJIKATA choreographed wild performances he called "dance experiences". In 1965 experimental filmmaker Takahiko IIMURA became a part of the performance. Using a handheld 8mm camera IIMURA positioned himself both off and on stage, often moving along with HIJIKATA and Kazuo OHNO to create what IIMURA would later call a "cine-dance".

  • Navel & A-Bomb
  • Director: Eikoh HOSOE
  • Japan 1960, 14 min

Photographer Eiko HOSOE's only film, NAVEL & A-BOMB was made under the auspices of The Jazzu Eiga Jikken-Shitsu, or The Experimental Jazz Film Laboratory, an artist collective founded by the legendary avantgarde poet, playwright, and filmmaker Shuji TERAYAMA. Tatsumi HIJIKATA choreographed Kazuo OHNO's son Yoshito, four local fishermen, and six village boys in a modern spin on the Adam and Eve story.

  • The Portrait of Mr. O (excerpt)
  • Director: Chiaki NAGANO
  • Japan 1969, 7 min

From 1969 to 1973 Chiaki NAGANO collaborated with Kazuo OHNO on three 16mm black-and-white films. The first of these, THE PORTRAIT OF MR. O, features a non-narrative mix of ecstatic experimentation during which Ohno adopts the guises of unforgettably surreal characters. This rare presentation of an excerpt from THE PORTRAIT OF MR. O highlights OHNO at his creative peak.

  • The Story of Smallpox (excerpt)
  • Director: Keiya OUCHIDA
  • Japan 1972, 18 min

By the early 1970's Tatsumi HIJIKATA's choreographies were more performance than dance. Keiya OUCHIDA's film of HIJIKATA's 1972 performance THE STORY OF SMALLPOX captures one of HIJAKATA'S last public solo dances as part of a group performance with Asbestos Hall. The film also gives us the opportunity to see past and present butoh dancers such as Yoko ASHIKAWA, Saga KOBAYSHI and Yukio WAGURI in action.

  • Husk
  • Director: Eiko und Takashi Koma OTAKE
  • USA 1987, 9 min

Eiko OTAKE and Takashi Koma OTAKE studied with both Tatsumi HIJIKATA and Kazuo OHNO, but these former student radicals adamantly refuse to call their work butoh. Still in 1987's HUSK we see one of the classics of butoh dance on film. Acknowledged by Eiko OTAKE as being her favorite of their films Husk is a slow and utterly riveting document of this world-renowned duo's work.

  • Kazuo OHNO
  • Director: Daniel Schmid
  • Japan/Switzerland 1995, 14 min

Although originally filmed as part of Daniel Schmid's documentary THE WRITTEN FACE OF THE FOOTAGE OF KAZUO OHNO, this footage proved too compelling and beautiful to appear only in flashes in the full length film. Therefore Schmid cut together a stand alone short film titled simply Kazuo OHNO that features the then 89-year-old master in a mesmerizing performance.

  • Magnetic Fields (excerpt)
  • Director: Mario Moreleo
  • Japan/Italy 2010, 13 min

Tokyo born and Normandy-based dancer, choreographer Masaki IWANA is the rare artist in the world of butoh. His dance, based on themes of stasis and yogic techniques, was developed independently of the HIJIKATA / OHNO lineage. This excerpt from Iwana's 2010 solo performance MAGNETIC FIELDS in Sarzana, Italy contains the beauty and ferocity of butoh while at the same time taking viewers into Iwana's singular dance world.

  • Canticle for Rain
  • Director: Allen Kaeja & Denise FUJIWARA
  • Canada 2009, 4 min

Canada's premiere butoh performer and choreographer Denise FUJIWARA (apprentice to founding butoh artist Natsu NAKAJIMA) is captured on film by fellow dancer and filmmaker Allen KAEJA in a meditative dance on a rain shore in which FUJIWARA herself faces her butoh doppelganger.

Go back