EXPIRED: 06/01/10 – Kazuo Ohno, 103, brought Butoh – a Japanese modern dance style characterized by excruciatingly slow movement, crooked torsos and limbs and smeared white face makeup – to a worldwide audience. He was as eerie as he was poetic, as charming as he was alarming.
Ohno was so inspirational that it was often written that simply having him present was, in fact, art.
He was born in Japan to the family a poor fisherman and started studying dance somewhat late in life, at age 27, after being moved by the dancer La Argentina. Nearly 50 years later he dedicated a solo performance to her entitled “Admiring La Argentina.”
Often mixing traditional fancy royal garments with peasant kimonos, Ohno could be graceful and elegant in one move and frightening the next, dragging his body across the stage, shrinking his torso, contorting his face and stretching his arms, hands and fingers like the branches of a dead tree.
Although he toured the world extensively, he continued to earn a living to support his family as a fitness instructor at a Japanese high school. Yet, he continued to perform even into his 90s, when he could no longer walk. Ohno would sit in his wheelchair, using only his hands to communicate his choreography, or pull himself across the floor, dragging his legs behind him.
Even after this he continued to influence:
In 2006, in recognition of Ohno’s 100th birthday, a book of photography was compliled in homage to him featuring the works of Eikoh Hosoe entitled “The Butterfly Dream.”
In 2009, Ohno was featured on the cover of Antony and the Johnsons’ 2009 CD The Crying Light, which is dedicated to him.