In Memorium: Kazuo Ohno

Jun 20, 2010

A few weeks ago the world lost a major figure in the dance world. Kazuo Ohno, a founder of Butoh, the influential Japanese dance-theater form whose traditional look of darkness and decay evoked for many the horrors of the wartime bombings of Japan, died on Tuesday June 1 in Yokohama, Japan. He was 103 and had continued to perform beyond his 100th year.

His death was confirmed by Yoko Shioya, the artistic director of the Japan Society in New York.

Mr. Ohno’s solo performances, for which he was known, were irresistibly powerful and fraught with ambiguity. A humanist, he communicated the themes of the form through identifiable characters, most often flamboyantly female. The tottering women whom he personified onstage, his body twisted and grotesque, were both forces of nature and fragile creatures with flapping shoes and skewed wigs.

In this, Mr. Ohno also embodied the dual nature of Butoh, developed in Japan after World War II. It mines the primeval darkness of life and death in harrowing theatrical physical imagery yet is also capable of the dramatic equivalent of raucous, often bawdy laughter.

Continue reading his obituary, published on the New York Times, June 1, 2010

Photo Credit: Jack Vartoogian/FrontRowPhotos

Tags: Kazuo Ohno, Butoh, obituary, dance, Japan

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