Past Exhibitions

Butoh – Dance of the Soul

Shir Meller-Yamaguchi

Curator: Shir Meller-Yamaguchi

“I sit here, thinking things over, in the playground of the dead. Here I wait for the dance, and to dance the life of the wild grass. I see the grass, I myself am the grass, I become one with the universe. This metamorphosis is the cosmology and the study of the soul”.
Kazuo Ono

Butoh is an avant-garde dance form created in Japan during a period of deep social and cultural crisis after the Second World War and the tragedy of Hiroshima. Its originators, Kazuo Ono and Tatsumi Hijikata, learned modern western dance (Neue Tanz) in their youth, but abandoned it in the 1960s to create a form of dance unlike any other. Butoh is an open examination of the unknown by means of hearkening to the body. The dancer has to leave his body and be reborn within it. Butoh is thus a transformational experience, exploring the limits of the possible, testing the boundaries of the soul through the body.
The Japanese word “Butoh” means “dance” (bu) and “stamping feet” (toh), and apparently derives from the dance rituals of the Japanese peasants. While western ballet aspires to the heights, Butoh emphasizes the connection of the body with the earth, from which all life emerges. Movement is not considered as exteriorization, but as expressing the unification of existence and universe. Butoh does not distinguish between art and life. This is watching – not identifying with – the body and what animates it over and above all other states of being – smoke, creature, or ghost.
Butoh is regarded as absurd and provocative in Japan, but has been accepted with enthusiasm and much interest elsewhere. Renowned companies such as the Sankai Juku and Dairakudakan (Flying Camel) created spectacles, atavistic and breathtaking, whose influence on dance and theatre is still felt today.
This exhibition, first mounted at the Wilfrid Israel Museum of Asian Art and Studies. It includes works by photographers and butoh dancers from both countries.

Shir Meller-Yamaguchi, Curator
Wilfrid Israel Museum of Asian Art