Butoh arose post-Hiroshima and post-American Occupation of Japan in the late 1950’s and arose from the social and political climate reflected in artistic practices both in Japan and in Europe and drew from many sources including German Expressionism, Antonin Artaud, Surrealism, Japanese traditional theatre and literature etc. The main founders are Tatsumi Hijikata and Kazuo Ohno. What began as a deliberate rejection of conventional western dance technique and the constraints of traditional Japanese Theatre developed into a strong underground, avante –garde movement revolving around the charismatic centre of Hijikata.
Several generations of Japanese Butoh dancers have now emerged and starting with the experiments of Min Tanaka with Mai Juku, western dancers entered the experimental field of Butoh in the late 1970’s. Butoh gained more international momentum with its emergence in Europe through the appearances of such artists as Natsu Nakajima, Kazuo Ohno, Ko Murobushi, Carlotta Ikeda/Ariadone, and of course Sankai Juku.
The result, since the 1980’s, has been a sustained international growth and development of Butoh into extremely diverse forms of expression. Whilst it is sometimes difficult, and perhaps not even desirable, to find some unifying thread, one of the most distinguishing denominators of Butoh dancers is the desire to go beyond presentation of pure technique and to search for ‘the body that has not been robbed’ (Hijikata). Of course, this desire is shared by many contemporary dancers and live artists and it becomes increasingly difficult to generalise and contrast the aspirations of Butoh with contemporary dance. In fact, some of the most exciting Butoh creators such as Kim Itoh and Akira Kasai, are merging languages to truly search for a dance that is not constrained by the definitions of the past but that can speak for our time and into the future.
Western practitioners have been essential to the survival and evolution of Butoh. It is of great importance to stress that just because someone is Japanese and a Butoh dancer it definitely does not make them a stronger teacher, performer or choreographer. Western artists thoroughly trained or engaged with Butoh often prove to be equal if not more attuned to developing training techniques, choreographic vision and powerful performance ability.
Butoh Uk therefore strives to invite the best artists in this field regardless of ethnic origin.