Kazuo Ohno, the Japanese butoh artist, celebrates his 100th birthday on October 27th. Both as a citizen and an artist, Ohno has been a contemporary of the major events which marked Japan’s recent history: the Kanto Earthquake, the Pacific War, atomic bombs being dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, an American occupation, the boom and bust following the economic miracle of the 1960s. He continued to grace the stage until 2004, and with each successive appearance persisted in pushing the human body to its limits.
Despite the shadow of Alzheimer’s clouding his latter years; Ohno remains a true child-of-the-theatre to the very last. Perhaps, his ultimate wish is to die onstage, surrounded by the spectres of those he cherishes so dearly: his mother and La Argentina.
Born on October 27th 1906 in Hokkaido, Japan’s most northerly island, Ohno was the eldest son of a fisherman, and a mother to whom he was closely attached. Though endowed with a fine artistic sensibility, his mother had little time to develop her talents given that her life was entirely devoted to raising ten children. A physical education teacher by profession, Ohno first started taking dance lessons on coming to Tokyo in ...