Portrait of a man of dance

     (PNAN-CA) – Perhaps his greatest success in life was not to him as what the public knows: a professional Japanese dancer who took “Butoh,” a dance form that has no set style and left his own artistic imprint; an author of “The Palace Soars through the Sky,” “Dessin,” “Words of Workshop,” and “Food for the Soul.” Or could it be that his performances around the globe led to his notoriety as a leading expert and inspirational figure in the dance? Surely, they may have been in his thoughts during the nearing, but all he wanted from his admirers in regards to his work was, “The best thing someone can say to me is that while watching my performance they began to cry. It is not important to understand what I am doing; perhaps it is better if they don’t understand, but just respond to the dance.”

     The unnoticed parts of Kazuo Ohno, whose father was a fisherman and mother was noted as a master in European culinary arts, was born October 27, 1906 in Japan and passed June 1, 2010 at the age of 103. In his youth, Ohno’s athletic ability took him on to college; thusly teaching physical education at a Christian high school and the Soshin Girls’ School in Yokohama, retiring in 1980. But that is not all, in 1938, he was drafted into the Japanese Army where he fought in China and New Guinea, he rose to captain, unfortunately he became an Australian POW, and those memories, the perils of war, death, destruction, confinement, although tragically horrifying, can be sourced to some of his works, such as the Jellyfish Dance, one that recalls the burials at sea.

     This November at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, the YBCA Film/Video celebrates his work in a series of six documentaries and performance films titled: “Remembering Kazuo Ohno, who continued to dance, even when he could not walk anymore, he crawled onstage, and when it took a wheelchair: he danced with his hands. Beginning on Thursday, November 4 at 7:30 pm with “Beauty and Strength” followed by: Saturday, November 6, 7:30 pm, “A Portrait of Mr. O”; Sunday, November 7, 2:00 pm, “Butoh: Body on the Edge of Crisis”; Thursday, November 18, 7:30 pm, “An Offering to Heaven”; Saturday, November 20, 7:30 pm, “O! Kind God & Flower”; and on Sunday, November 21 at 2:00 pm, “Kazuo Ohno & Final performance film of Admiring La Argentina.”

     As with everyone, our pathways lead to many forked roads because of the other forces that surround and are connected to our own being. However, Henry David Thoreau had it right when he said, “If one advances confidently in the direction of one’s dreams, and endeavors to live the life which one has imagined, one will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.” Kazuo Ohno is also a public historical reminder of Thoreau’s words, however when it is time for all to come back to the valley, do we think about what it took to get to the top of the mountain, or as Albert Schweitzer said, “One other thing stirs me when I look back at my youthful days, the fact that so many people gave me something or were something to me without knowing it.” Kazuo buried his wife Chie in 1997 and together they left a legacy of two sons.

“Imagining La Argentina” photo by Emídio Luisi

Published by on October 2010. Filed under Archives, Art-to-Art Palette Journal, Centerstage Section. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

1 Comment for “Portrait of a man of dance”

  1. Ohno-san was a great figure in the world of art, dance and theater. His origins by being Eurasian and grounded in Butoh gave him a unique and beautiful palette. We are truly blessed that this legend has lived and shared his artistry during our life time. Thank God golden moments are captured on film. Go out rent, buy or borrow.
    Chevalier Tony Clark

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