Monday, 14 June 2010

Kazuo Ono Remembered

Kazuo Ono died on June 1st aged 103.  A singular dancer, choreographer and teacher, Ono is remembered as a consummate and impassioned interpreter of Butoh.

Whilst a young man Ono became haunted and bewitched by the Spanish dancer Antonia Merce ("La Argentina") who he saw perform at the Imperial Theatre in Tokyo. This experience had a deep and lasting impression upon him and influenced his style of movement culminating in his work La Argentina Sho (Admiring La Argentina) which he debuted as late as 1977 and served as homage and embodiment of Merce.

A prisoner of war in Papua New Guinea for a year his experience of the war made him dance Jellyfish Dance in one of his recitals in the 1950s. On returning from New Guinea after his internment, Ono saw jellyfish in the sea where those who died during  the war from hunger and disease were at rest. After meeting Tatsumi Hiijikata, Butoh's founder in the 1950s he found the form of physical expression that would inspire him for the duration of his life.

Like Hiijikata who danced on his deathbed, surrounded by family and friends - literally summoning and accepting the forces which had come to claim him - it is believed that Ono was assisted to dance as he was dying by his son Yoshito who continues Ono's legacy.  Ono danced well into his nineties in spite of physical fraility, disabililty and the on-set of Alzheimers disease.

Lauded as a cultural treasure in Japan within his own lifetime, enjoy a small extract posted below from Ono's work, The Dead Sea.

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