100-year-old dancer fetes the art of darkness

100-year-old dancer fetes the art of darkness -(stolen from Yahoo! News UK)

YOKOHAMA, Japan, Jan 29 -No chickens were strangled at the gala performance for Butoh dancer Kazuo Ohno’s 100th birthday, a sign of just how much Japan’s most provocative dance has changed since its debut after World War Two.

Fans of Ankoku Butoh, the “Dance of Utter Darkness”, flew in from around the world for the weekend to honour Ohno, one of the founders of the dance that shocked audiences in the 1960s with stark performances reflecting the horrors of the war and the destruction of Hiroshima.

In one of the first Butoh performances, Ohno’s son Yoshito simulated sex with a chicken, smothering the bird in the process. Other Butoh dancers sometimes performed in loincloths — or in the nude — with wild hair and white body makeup.

But Butoh has moved on, and the new generation uses techno beats and strobe lights rather than blood and nakedness to express the confusion and insecurity of Japan’s youth.

“Butoh emerged in the years after the war, so it carried all those associations with it,” Yoshito Ohno said after the show, which ended with him pushing his wheelchair-bound centenarian father across the stage in a tender, slow dance.

“But now the world is totally different. Butoh was shaped by the difficult wartime experience, and we’ve passed it on to the next generation so that it will never happen again.”

While Butoh is often associated with distorted faces and tortured movements, its admirers say the dance is less about violence and more about life, death and the human soul.