About Kazuo Ohno

Reliving the Butoh Diva's Masterpieces

    15/05  | 17:00
    15/05  | 22:00
    16/05  | 20:30
    17/05  | 20:30
    18/05  | 20:30
    19/05  | 20:30

€ 16 / € 13
1h 50min

Meet the artist after the performance on 16/05
Not accessible for persons with reduced mobility

Takao Kawaguchi is a dancer and media artist, and a former member of the Japanese collective Dumb Type. He never learned to dance butoh. He never saw a single performance by Kazuo Ohno, the legendary founder of this primordial Japanese ‘dance of darkness’. And yet, that is exactly what he wishes: to become Kazuo Ohno. In About Kazuo Ohno , Kawaguchi wants, insofar as is possible, to copy the dance master, based solely on what has been preserved in old videotapes. Kawaguchi interrogates the memory, sincerity, and originality of the copy. This is both an honouring and a negation of the essence of butoh. Kawaguchi views the dance as an outsider: he throws himself into Ohno’s outward gestures and facial expressions, but his inner world remains closed to him. Still, the body of the dancer and the spirit of the deceased master gradually melt into one fascinating shape. The closer the copy is to the original, the deeper the chasm between the two. A tour de force.

Kazuo Ohno & Tatsumi Hijikata

Takao Kawaguchi

Dramaturgy & video
Naoto Iina

Noriko Kitamura

Appearance in video
Yoshito Ohno

Lighting design
Nami Nakayama

Sound operation
Noriaki Coda

Koichiro Takagi (HiWood)

Teijiro Kamiyama

Archive materials courtesy of
Kazuo Ohno Dance Studio & Canta, Ltd

In cooperation with
The Saison Foundation, Tokyo Zokei University CS-Lab


Takao Kawaguchi

Performances in Brussels supported by
Arts Council Tokyo (Tokyo Metropolitan Foundation for History and Culture)

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Like pouring hot iron into a mould

“I never saw Kazuo Ohno dance on stage while he was alive, only in photographs and videos. I thought it was very beautiful. I cannot explain it very well, but I feel a certain affinity with the twists and undulations of his movements. It even feels sensual. Maybe I have something similar to this quality within me? I thought I might as well explore it.”
Takao Kawaguchi

A star of the modern dance scene in Japan’s post-war era, Kazuo Ohno (1906-2010) performed a number of very unique dance works. When he encountered Tatsumi Hijikata, the chemical reaction between the two gave birth to the Butoh form of dance. Ohno subsequently retired from the dance scene for nearly 10 years, during which time he made The Portrait of Mr O and two other films with director Chiaki Nagano. In 1977, at the age of 71, Ohno made a spectacular comeback with Admiring La Argentina. From then on, he performed around the world, letting wide audiences discover Butoh. He continued to dance energetically until his death in 2010, at the age of 103. Hijikata described Ohno as “a dancer of deadly poison, capable of striking with just a spoonful”, while others described his work as “a dance of soul”.

In this controversial performance entitled About Kazuo Ohno, Takao Kawaguchi takes on the challenging task of literally copying this Butoh master based on the video recordings of Ohno’s premiere performances of his early masterpieces, including Admiring La Argentina (1977), My Mother (1981), and The Dead Sea: Viennese Waltz and Ghost (1985).

Said to be largely improvisational, Ohno’s dance is unique not only because of his advanced age but also because of the distinctive features of his body and movements, which are essential to his dance. Kawaguchi’s attempt to copy this as it is – no more and no less – means suspending his own interpretation and beliefs, and projecting himself onto the forms and shapes of the older dancer as precisely as possible. The closer the match, however, the clearer the gap becomes; minimal but inevitable, no matter how hard he tries to diminish it. The paradox here is that this very gap nevertheless highlights the distinct characteristics of the copier. The copy is original.

The viewer overlays the reminiscence of Kazuo Ohno onto Kawaguchi’s body, and for those who don’t know Ohno’s dance, on their imagination of it. The multiple images of Ohno and Kawaguchi merge, surface, and recede in turn. About Kazuo Ohno is, in a sense, a duet performed by Kawaguchi and the illusory image of Kazuo Ohno.

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Takao Kawaguchi (b. 1962) is a Japanese dancer and performer. Having been initiated into the world of performing arts by participating in a Spanish student theatre group in Tokyo, Kawaguchi joined Tokyo’s Théâtre de la Mandragore in 1985, a mime-based physical theatre company. With a whiff of post-Hijikata butoh, Kawaguchi glimpsed performance art and post-modern and contemporary dance before travelling to pre-Olympic Barcelona, where he was flooded by the new wave of European theatre and dance. Upon returning home in 1990, he formed ATA Dance before joining Dumb Type in 1996 (where he remained until 2008). Aside from this, Kawaguchi directed the Tokyo International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival from 1996 to 1999. The turn of the millennium inspired him to go solo, playing with modern punk musicians and artists including Atsuhiro Itoh, Fuyuki Yamakawa, and Daito Manabe. In 2002, he translated Derek Jarman’s Chroma into Japanese. More recently, despite having never seen Tatsumi Hijikata or Kazuo Ohno perform live, Kawaguchi looked into the archives to create the work Yameru Maihime (La danseuse malade) (2012) – inspired by Hijikata’s texts, and About Kazuo Ohno (2013). His latest creation Touch of the Other, a performance based on the sociological research into male-male sexual encounters in public toilets in the 1960s by US sociologist Laud Humphreys, premiered in Tokyo in January 2016.

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