Kazuo Ohno


1977, Admiring La Argentina


Kazuo Ohno was born in Hakodate City, Hokkaido, on October 27 in 1906. His father, the head of a fishermen's cooperative, spoke Russian and went to fish all over to Kamchatka. His mother was good at cooking European cuisine and playing Japanese zither with thirteen strings. She also plalyed organ and her children often sang to her organ.

When Kazuo was at junior high school, he was sent to one of his relatives, Shiraishi, in Akita prefecture to live with them. Shiraishi family didn't have any children. At Odate junior high school Kazuo belonged to a track-and-field events club and established a new record in the prefecture. In 1926 Kazuo entered the Japan Athletic College. A poor student as he was, a superintendent of a dormitory took him to the Imperial Theater to see a performance by the Spanish dancer Antonia Merce, known as "La Argentina," .La Argentina was also known as "the Queen of the Castanets" and she innovated 20th century Spanish dance. Spanish poet Garcia Lorca highly praised her. Kazuo was so impressed by her dance.

After graduating the college, Kazuo began working as a physical education teacher at Kanto Gakuin High School, a private Christian school in Yokohama.
He began to dance upon moving to Soshin Girls school, another Christian school, since he needed to teach dance to the girls students.He began training with two of Japan's modern dance pioneers, Baku Ishii and Takaya Eguchi, the latter a choreographer who had studied Neue Tanz with Mary Wigman in Germany. In 1938 Kazuo was drafted and went with the army to the front in China and New Guinea for 9 years

Kazuo held the first recital in 1949 at Kanda Kyoritsu Hall in Tokyo when he was 43 years old. As soon as returning from New Guinea, where he was a prisoner of war for a year, Kazuo resumed dancing. The experience of the war made him dance "Jellyfish dance" in one of his recitals in 1950s. On returning from New Guinea, he saw jellyfishes in the sea where those who died on board by hunger and diseases were buried.
In the 1950s, Kazuo Ohno met Tatsumi Hijikata, who inspired him to begin cultivating Butoh (originally called Ankoku Butoh, the "Dance of Utter Darkness"). Butoh was evolving in the turmoil of Japan's postwar landscape. Hijikata, who rejected the Western dance forms so popular at the time, developed with a collective group the vocabulary of movements and ideas that later, in 1961, he named the Ankoku Butoh-ha movement. In 1959, Hijikata created one of the earliest Butoh works, Kinjiki(Forbidden Colors), based on the novel by Yukio Mishima. In 1977, Ohno premiered his solo Butoh work directed by Hijikata, "La Argentina Sho" (Admiring La Argentina), which was awarded the Dance Critic's Circle Award. In 1980, "Admiring La Argentina" is Kazuo's masterpiece as well as Butoh's.

Kazuo Ohno was invited to the 14th International Festival in Nancy, France, in 1980 and toured to Strasbourg, London, Stuttgart, Paris and Stockholm. He danced "Admiring La Argentina" in the festival and had a great impact on the audience by his unique work. With Hijikata directing, he created two more major works, "My Mother" and "Dead Sea", performed with Yoshito Ohno. Other works of Ohno's include "Water Lilies", "Ka Cho Fu Getsu"(Flowers-Birds-Wind-Moon)and "The Road in Heaven, The Road in Earth". As one of the most significant Butoh performers, Ohno has toured throughout Europe, North and South America, Australia and Asia. He has performed in Hong Kong, Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, Indonesia, France, Spain, Denmark, Poland, Canada and the United States. Many students have come to study under him from all over the world.

After his 90th birthday, he was still active as a Butoh dancer. The last overseas performance was "Requiem for the 20th Century" which was held in New York on December 1999. But in the same year he had eye trouble and his physical strength gradually started waning.Yet Kazuo Ohno has continued dancing as if he was nourished by his age. When he could not walk by himself, he danced with the supports by others.When he could not stand even with the supports, he danced as he seated himself. When his legs didn't move as he wanted, he danced with his hands. When he lost himself, he crawled on his knees and audience were so moved by watching his back.

When he dances, he vitalizes himself. An ordinary old man becomes a somebody who gives power to others. People love to encounter Kazuo because of that. He lives long, he moves people deeply. Kazuo Ohno is an artist who has enlarged human potential.

Awards: He was awarded a cultural award from Kanagawa Prefecture in 1993, a cultural award from Yokohama city in 1998 and the Michelagelo Antonioni Award for the Arts in 1999.

Films: Kazuo Ohno starred in the films, "The Potrait of Mr.O" (1969), "Mandala of Mr.O" (1971) and "Mr.0's Book of the Dead" (1973), directed by Chiaki Nagano; in "The Scene of the Soul" (1991) by Katsumi Hirano; and "Kazuo Ohno" (1995), directed by Daniel Schmid. Books: He has written three books on Butoh, "The Palace Soars through the Sky", a collection of essays and photographs, "Dessin" with drawings and notes on his Butoh creations and "Words of Workshop", a collection of lectures given in his workshop. Also "Food for the Soul", a book of his selected pictures from 1930's through 1999, has been published. "Words of Workshop" and "Food for the Soul" has been translated into English as "kazuo ohno's world : from without & within" published by Wesleyan University Press.



Born in Hakodate City, Hokkaido.

1925 ~ 1928

Graduated from Ohdate Public High School in Akita prefecture. After teachig one year at Izumizawa Elementary School in Ohdate, went to Tokyo to enter Japan Athletic College (Nihon Taiiku Daigaku). Studied Denmark Exercises and Rudolf Bode Expression Exercises.


Saw the Spanish dancer "La Argentina " Antonia Merce at the Imperial Theater in Tokyo. Ohno points to this experience as the origin of his desire to become a dancer. Graduated from Japan Athletic College. Began working as a physical education teacher at Kanto Gakuin High School, a private Christian school in Yokohama. Sometime during the next five years he was baptized as a Christian on the beach at Kamakura.

1934 ~ 1936

Seeing the German Expressionist dancer Harold Kreutzberg (a disciple of Mary Wigman) dance in 1934 influenced him to begin studying with Takaya Eguchi and Souko Miya in 1936. Eguch and Miya , two of the pioneers of Japanese modern dance, had brought back "Neue Tanz" from his study at Mary Wigman's dance institute in Germany.

1938 ~ 1945

Drafted into the Japanese Army as a Second Lieutenant, eventually became a Captain in charge of provisions.


After returning to Japan, took up teaching at Soshin Girls School and began substitute teaching at Eguchi Dance School.

1950 ~ 1959

1949 ~ 1955

First dance concert, a joint performance with Mitsuko Ando (another disciple of Eguchi): "Ennui for the City," "Shoes," "A Hat " and "Kind God." Tatsumi Hijikata saw this perfomance and was influenced by it to begin studying with Ando when he moved permanently to Tokyo in 1952. Ohno and Hijikata met through Ando sometime between 1952 and 1954. First solo dance recital held in 1949 ( "Devil Cry," "Tango," "First Flower of the Linden Tree"). Subsequent recitals held in 1950 ("Spring Offering," "Festival," "Beyond the Field," "Harp of Zion," "Lotus Wandering Child"), 1951 ( "Spring Tide," "Downtown Dance") and 1953 ( "Unfinished Thoughts," "Fox and Stone Figure," "Fruits from Heaven"). He also appeared on television in 1953 and participated in one of Ando's concerts in 1954.


Participated in a "Ballet Pantomime" performance with Mamako Yoneyama and Tatsumi Hijikata, at Haiyu-za theater in Roppongi.


Performed "The Old Man and the Sea" (based on the novel by Ernest Hemingway) at Daiichi Seimei Hall Participated with Hijikata in "6 Avant-garde Artists- An Experience for 650 People" at Daiichi Seimei Hall. Hijikata performed a revised two part version of "Kinjiki" (Forbidden Colors), which included a section choreographed for Ohno based on the character Divine, the aging male prostitute in Jean Genet's "Notre -Dame -des -Fleurs".

1960 ~ 1969


Participated in the first "Tatsumi Hijikata Dance Experience Concert" at Daiichi Seimei Hall. Danced a revised version of "Divine" and a piece based on Lautreamont's "The Song of Maldoror".


Participated in the second "Tatsumi Hijikata Dance Experience Concert" at Daiichi Seimei Hall. Dances included "A Secret Daytime Ritual of Hermaphrodite" and "Sugar Cake".


"Sacrifice Ceremony" at Asahi Hall. Kazuo Ohno danced the role of koken (the black-robed assistant in traditional theater), Monaaru Sato played the ritualist, other dancers included Akira Kasai and Takeshi Watanabe.


Participated in "A Rose-colored Dance: A La Maison de M. Shibusawa", choreographed and directed by Hijikata; artists included Natsuyuki Nakanishi and Tadanori Yoko, other dancers included Yoshito Ohno, Mitsutaka Ishii, Koichi Tamano and Akira Kasai.


Participated in the break-up performance of Hijikata's group Ankoku Butoh-ha: "Illustrated Textbook of the Rewards and Punishments of Sex Tomato" at Shinjuku Kinokuniya Hall. Directed and choreographed by Hijikata.


Guest appearrance in Tomiko Takai's dance recital, "Keijijogaku" (Metaphysical Emotion). Based on the poetry collection of the same name by Ikuya Kato. Hijikata directed and choreographed; artists included Akira Shimizu, dancers included Yoshito Ohno, Koichi Tamano and Akira Kasai. Guest appearrance in Ishii Mitsutaka's dance concert at Daiichi Seimei Hall "Butoh Genet," a dance influenced by both Jean Genet and Aubrey Beardsley.


Guest appearrance in Ishii Mitsutaka's dance concert "O Genet" at Ginza Gas Hall. Guest appearrance in Tomiko Takai's second dance recital, "Mandala Mansion" at Daiichi Seimei Hall. Theme taken from a poetry collection by Ikuya Kato. Hijikata directed and choreographed.


Starred in "A Portrait of Mr.O," a movie directed by Chiaki Nagano.

1970 ~ 1979


Starred in a second movie directed by Nagano, "Mandala of Mr. O."


Starred in a third movie directed by Nagano, "Mr. O's Book of the Dead."


Guest appearrance in Yasuhiko Takeuchi's dance concert, "Song of Narcissus" at the small hall of Shinjuku Kosei Nenkin.


Premiere of "Admiring La Argentina," at Daiichi Seimei Hall. Directed by Hijikata. Awarded the Dance Critics' Circle Award for 1977.


Performed "A Canoe Passes under the Cherry Blossoms" (based on a poem by Kazuko Shiraishi) as part of a dance concert of commemorating Takaya Eguchi at Yubin Chokin hall.

1980 ~ 1989


Invited to the 14th International Festival in Nancy, France. Performed "Admiring La Argentina," and "A Dreame of a Fetus." In June and July gave performances with his group (which included Minoru Hideshima, Mitsuyo Uesugi, Moritsuna Nakamura and Tokuji Ikebe) in Strassbourg, London, Stuttgart, Paris and Stockholm. In August gave a lecture demonstration as part of Montreal's "Symposium '80" at the University of Quebec. Performed "Admiring La Argentina" at the Theater Alfred la Liberte.


Performed "My Mother" at Daiichi Seimei Hall. Directed by Hijikata In July performed "Admiring La Argentina" at the International Theater Festival in Caracas, Venezuela. Gave a lecture demonstration at the University of Caracas. Six night performance alternating "Admiring La Argentina" and "My Mother" at La Mama E.T.C. in New York City.


Toured Europe: performances included theater festival in Munich, Copenhagen, Barcelona and Avignon.


Performed in Italy in February and Israel in March. Visited the Dead Sea for the first time.


Participated in the 1985 Butoh Festival in Tokyo. Performed "Admiring La Argentina" and premiered "The Dead Sea" (a duo performance with Yoshito Ohno) at Marion Asahi Hall. Performed "The Dead Sea" and "Admiring La Argentina" at Joyce Theater in New York City, as part of the "Close-up of Japan" series sponsored by the Mitsui Group.


Tatsumi Hijikata died of cancer on January 21st. Performed in Australia, Brasil, Argentina, Berlin, United States and Europe.


Premiered "Water Lilies", a duo performance with Yoshito Ohno, in Sttutgart. Performed "Water Lilies" as part of the "Hommage to Tatsumi Hijikata" Butoh Dance Festival at the Ginza Saison Theater.


Participated in the First New York International Festival of the Arts. Performed "Water Lilies" at the Asia Society. Premiered "Mushi Biraki" (Insect Metamorphosis) as part of the Tokyo International Theater Festival, at Seibu Studio 200 in Ikebukuro. Participated in Dresden Comtemporary Music Festival. Gave a lecture demonstration at the previous Mary Wigman School and performed "Admiring La Argentina" at Kleines Haus.


Toured Italy: workshop in Venezia and outdoor performances in the summer festivals of Sardenia, Lipari and Salina in Sicily. Gave workshop and performances in Vienna. Participated in Festival International de Nouvelle Danse in Montreal, the IMMT Festival in Budapest, Europalia Japan in Belgium and the Cervantino Festival in Mexico.
In November performed at Teatro Petruzzeli in Bari and at Spazio Zero in Rome. Workshop and performances in West Berlin. Visited Cremona where lute-maker, Stradivalius lived. Decided to create a piece related to Stradivalius at the municipal theater of Cremona in 1990.



Performed "Admiring La Argentina" and "The Dead Sea" at the AI Hall in Itami and "Insect Metamorphosis" at the Nanatsu-Dera Kyodo Studio in Nagoya.
First book "The Palace Soars into the Sky" was published by Shicho-Sha. The book includes his essays on Butoh piece creation, photos of each work and articles about Ohno.
In May premiered "Ka Cho Fu Getsu"(Flowers-Birds-Wind-Moon), a duo performance with Yoshito Ohno at Teatro Ponchielli in Cremona.
Performed in Japan: in Yokohama within the Yokohama-Barcelona City Creation in June and in Takamatsu, Sapporo and Kushiro in August.
In September performed "Water Lilies" at Premier Dance Theater of Harbourfront in Toronto, as part of the "Close-up of Japan" series sponsored by the Mitsui Group.
In October and November performed in Gottingen, Paris and Prague. In Paris stayed 3 weeks to give workshop and performances within the Iles de Danse Festival.


Performed "Water Lilies" at the Kanazawa-city Cultural Hall in January. Performed "Ka Cho Fu Getsu" at the Ginza Saison Theater in Tokyo in August.
Toured Europe in August through September: performances in festivals of Castiglioncello and Rovereto in Italy, Helsinki and Geneve.
In September performed "Hook-nose Salmon of Ishikari" as a tribute to the Ishikari River and returning salmon on an outdoor stage at the mouth of the Ishikari River and "The Dead Sea" in the precinct of the Chofuku-ji temple in Nanao.
Starred in "The Scene of the Soul", a film directed by Katsumi HIRANO.
Performed "Admiring La Argentina" at the Shonandai Cultural Center in Fujisawa.


Performed in Wuppertal and Gottingen in January. A series of 4 performances, titled "Dreams of 10 Nights", celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Terpsichore Theater at the Terpcichore in Tokyo in February.
Premiered "A White Lotus Bloom" at the Tokyo FM Hall with Yoshito Ohno (dancer) and Haruna Miyake (composer) in March. Performed in Berlin as part of the "Close-up of Japan" sponsored by the Mitsui Group, and in Bremen in April.
Toured Brasil and participated in festivals in Londrina, Santo Andre and Belo Horizonte in June through July.
"Dessin", his second book, was published by Ryokugei-Sha. The book includes his drawings and notes on Butoh piece creations.
Premiered a Butoh piece of "Oguri-Hangan and Terute-Hime" with Yoshito Ohno (dancer), Toshiyuki Tsuchitori (percussionist) and Harue Momoyama (singer) in Ogaki in November.
Performed "Ka Cho Fu Getsu" in Kushiro in November and "Water Lilies" in Tokyo in December.


Performed in the Hong Kong Arts Festival in February.
Appears in a TV program by NHK, "Music Fantasy - KUROZUKA" based on a Noh play "Kurozuka" in March. Performed "A White Lotus Bloom" in the Kawasaki City Museum in March.
Appeared in a Butoh piece "Palace Soars Across the Sky" held in a warehouse in the Yokohama Red Brick Warehouse Premises in April.
In August performed "A White Lotus Bloom" in Odate and "The Dead Sea" in Akita as a part of JADE Festival and also participated in the Butoh Festival in Seoul.
Toured the United States including Los Angels, Seattle, Omaha, Kansas City, Minneapolis, New York, Richmond, Amherst in October through November.
Received a Cultural Award of Kanagawa Prefecture in November.
Performed "Oguri-Hangan and Terute-Hime" with Yoshito Ohno (dancer), Toshiyuki Tsuchitori (percussionist) and Harue Momoyama (singer) in Shonandai Cultural Center.


In April performed "Water Lilies" in Teatro Fonte in Yokohama, as the first program of the Kazuo Ohno Retrospective of his representative works since 1977.
Participated in the Singapore Festival of Arts and in the Guandu Arts Festival of Taipei in May through June.
Toured Lisbon, Paris, Avignon and Perigueux in July and August. In September performed "Admiring La Argentina" in Teatro Fonte in Yokohama, as the 2nd program of the periodic retrospective.
In October invited to an event of the Odin Theater's 30th anninversary in Holstebro of Denmark and performed in Warsaw.,
In December performed "Oguri-Hangan Terute-Hime" in Tokyo.


In February performed "The Dead Sea" in Teatro Fonte in Yokohama, as the 3rd program of the periodic retrospective.
In April premiered "The Road in Heaven, The Road in Earth" in the Keio University in Yokohama."KAZUO OHNO", a 14min. film by Daniel Schmid was premiered in May.
In October participated in the Art Summit Indonesia'95 and toured Padangpanjang (West Sumatra) and Jakarta.
In November performed "My Mother" in Teatro Fonte in Yokohama, as the 4th program of the periodic retrospective.


Performed "My Mother" in New York in February.
Appeared in "The Written Face", a film by Daniel Schmid.
In March performed "The Road in Heaven, the Road in Earth" in Osaka.
In May presented "Ka Cho Fu Getsu" as the 5th program of the periodic retrospective in Teatro Fonte. Participated in Carrefour International de Theatre in Quebec.
In October performed "The World of Kazuo Ohno -- From Divinarianes by Jean Genet" in Yokohama.


In March performed "The Road in Heaven, The Road in Earth" in Ferrara, Rimini and Remscheid.
"Workshop's Words" was published by Film Art Sha in April.
In May through June toured Brasil. Performed "Water Lilies" in Osaka in September and in Hakodate in October.
In November presented "The Road in Heaven, the Road in Earth" as the 5th program of the periodic retrospective in Teatro Fonte.


In February performed "My Mother" in Yokohama. Designated as the Messenger of the Year on the International Dance Day by International Theater Institute.
In June performed "Mu" with Hideo Kanze(Noh actor) in Tokyo.
In November received a Cultural Award of Yokohama City and performed "The Road in Heaven, The Road in Earth" in Tokyo. In December performed "The Road in Heaven, The Road in Earth" in Osaka.


In March gave an atelier performance in the studio next to his home.
In June paticipated in the Juksan International Arts Festival in Korea.
In September "Bread for Soul" was published by Film Art Sha. Had operations for cataract and cerebral hemorrhage.
In October received the Michelangelo Antonioni Award for the Arts and performed "Celebration" in Venice.
In December, performed "Requiem for the 20th Century" n New York.

2000 ~ 2010年


In January performed at Torii Hall in Osaka.
In June performed "Flower of the Universe"in Yokohama. In October performed "Flower of the Universe" in Tokyo at the Tokyo International Festival of Performing Arts.
In November hospitalized because of internal bleeding in the left buttock and cancelled the performances for the rest of the year.
In the same month "Kazuo Ohno On Screen" was held, where 16 films on Kazuo Ohno was screened.


In January the video/DVD"Kazuo Ohno: Beauty and Strength" was published by NHK software.
In March resumed the atelier performance at Kamishoshikawa, Yokohama and continued to give a performance per month until July.
In October performed "Flower"at Shinjuku Park Tower Hall, Tokyo at the Tokyo International Festival of Performing Arts.
In November received the grand prize of Oribe Awards.


In January performed at Kyoto Seika University and received the Special Award of the 1st Asahi Performing Arts Awards.
In May participated in Nakagawa Yukio’s performance "Flower Fanatic"in Echigo-Tsumari Art triennial 2003.
In September performed "Life, in My Butoh: the form and the soul"in Tokyo.
In November performed at Isamu Noguchi Room, Keio University.


In Februray performed "My mother’s song"at Kanamori Hall for its 15th anniversary of its opening.
In April performed and screened "Palace Soars Across the Sky(1993)"at Yokohama Red Brick Warehouse for its 1st anniversary of its opening.
In August performed at Aichi Arts Center in Nagoya to commemorate the opening of Kazuo Ohno video library.
In September gave an open-air performance"Death connection" at the Site of Reversible Destiny—Yoro Park, Yoko, Gifu.
In October performed at the Taro Okamoto Museum of Art within the exhibition "In honor of Tatsumi Hijikata."
In November performed "The dearest person"with Yoshito Ohno in Kiryu.


From June to July Kazuo Ohno Festival 2004 was held under the joint sponsorship of Kazuo Ohno Dance Studio and BankART 1929.
On the occasion "The Kazuo Ohno Photo Album"was published by BankART 1929. DVD"KAZUO OHNO & Portrait of Mr.O"was published by Canta Ltd. "KAZUO OHNO"was originally directed by Daniel Schmid in 1995 and "Portarit of Mr.0"was directed by Chiaki Nagano in 1969.


From October to November Kazuo Ohno Festival 2005 was held under the joint sponsorship of Kazuo Ohno Dance Studio and BankART 1929. On the occasion "Kazuo Ohno and Tatsumi Hijikata in the 1960s" was published by BankART 1929.
In December performed in Yoshito Ohno’s “Isshin” at Yokohama’s Teatro Fonte.


In July film director, Koki Tange filmed Kazuo at home and in the dance studio for “Jesus Flowers Death Life.”
In October Kazuo Ohno Festival 2006 was held under the joint sponsorship of Kazuo Ohno Dance Studio and BankART 1929. Participated in his 100th birthday celebrations with many well-wishers. “The Butterfly Dream” by Eikoh Hosoe was published by Seigensha publishers.
From October to January 2007, the Louvre Museum screened “The Portrait of Mr. O” as part of their exhibition “Corps etrangers, Dance, Dessin, Film.” In December the Centre Pompidou, Paris screened “Kazuo Ohno A Long Interview.”


In January Hyakkaryouran Gala Concert was held at the Kanagawa Prefectural Seishonen Centre to celebrate Kazuo’s centenary birthday. Joined all the guest artists for the curtain call. Film Art-sha published “A Hundred Years of Butoh.”
In March “Kazuo Ohno as though speaking to himself”, a documentary film by Koshiro Otsu, was screened. From March to April an exhibition “Buon Compleanno, Maestro. Omagio a Kazuo Ohno” was held at the Archeological Museum of Bologna, Italy.
In October Kazuo Ohno Festival 2007 was held under the joint sponsorship of Kazuo Ohno Dance Studio and BankART 1929. Joined Carolyn Carlson on-stage after her performance of “Double Vision.” This was to last ever public appearance. BankART 1929 published “Kazuo Ohno at 100.” The Japan Society in New York organized “Kazuo Ohno at 101, a three-week marathon of Butoh performances.”
In November Meiji Gakuin University organized symposium: “Kazuo Ohno: Butoh and Life.”
In December hospitalized during which period received a constant flow of visitors.


In February released from hospital. Remained bed-bound at home afterwards. From March to May an exhibition “Kazuo Ohno 101” was held at SESC Paolista, Sao Paolo. The exhibition was shown also in Campinas and Rio Preto.
In October Kazuo Ohno Festival 2008 was held under the joint sponsorship of Kazuo Ohno Dance Studio and BankART 1929.


From September to October Kazuo Ohno Festival 2009 was held under the joint sponsorship of Kazuo Ohno Dance Studio and BankART 1929.


In February Yoshito Ohno collaborated with Anthony and the Johnsons in “Anthony and the Ohnos” at the Tokyo’s Sogetsu Hall, featuring a screening of Kazuo’s films. DVD “Kazuo Ohno Flower/ An Offering to Heaven. Ikebana Master Yukio Nakagawa’s Challenge” was published by Canta Co. Ltd and NHK Enterprise.
On June 1st urgently hospitalized in Yokohama. Surrounded by his family and those close to him, Kazuo Ohno passed away at 16:38, at the age of 103.
On July 17th “Bravo! A Joyous Send-off for Kazuo Ohno” was held at BankART Studio NYK, Yokohama. Over 700 hundred people made their farewells and showed their gratitude to Kazuo. The memorial book “Kazuo Ohno Chronicle of a Lifetime 1906-2010” was published by Canta Co. Ltd.