Kazuo Ohno's Chrismas
Every December, Kazuo Ohno would go to Kamihoshikawa Kindergarten near his home in Hodogaya dressed as Santa, and join Christmas worship and celebration with the children. This was an important yearly event from around 1960, when he moved to the area, to 2006.
Back in 1960, Kazuo Ohno worked as a physical education teacher at Soshin Girls’ School in Yokohama. This was a significant period in his artistic career, as it was around the same time that he became involved in Tatsumi Hijikata’s avant-garde works. Christmas at the kindergarten however seemed a world of its own, apart from his everyday life.
I have no recollection of Kazuo Ohno ever inviting people to see this Christmas event. That’s not to say it was a secret. If anyone expressed an interest in going they would be welcomed, but it also seemed very personal to Kazuo, and whether it was ok to be involved felt uncertain. Even from a distance, one could tell that this was an incredibly rich and precious time.
Why did this Christmas event continue for so many years?
Looking back at Kazuo Ohno’s long artistic career, one sees that he had a lot of support from the community centred around the Soshin Church. It can come as a surprise to know that such a small but intimate Christian community from Yokohama was so deeply involved in the cutting-edge work of this prominent artist. I think it’s wonderful that Kazuo Ohno’s coworkers, students, fellow church members and neighbours were consistently the core audience members for his performances. The kindergarten children were an extension of this, in front of whom Kazuo Ohno performed as a solo Butoh dancer. The reason this Christmas event continued for so long may have been because it was a Kazuo Ohno Butoh performance.
The kindergarten Christmas celebrations were generally at the beginning of December, and Kazuo Ohno often turned down work during this time, whether for performances abroad or work in Japan, saying “December’s a bit difficult, because there’s the kindergarten”. However, this 1999 Christmas was a little special, as he went to New York at the end of the month on the invitation of the Japan Society for an end of millennium performance. The title was Requiem for the 20th Century. Tickets sold well, and the Japan Society director got in contact to say that a lot of tickets were being bought as Christmas presents. Perhaps some of the essence of this small-town festivity could be brought to New York. I feel like there was talk of this in the kindergarten dressing room.
Interviewer : Toshio Mizohata
Camera,Edit : Naoto Iina
Film Director: Izuru Mizutani
Filming: Yoshinobu Hayano
Direction / Editing: Naoto Iina
PR / Text: Toshio Mizohata
Marketing: Yurika Kuremiya
Translation: Mai Honda
Graphics: Nobutaka Kitakaze (Young Soul)
Thanks to: Kamihoshikawa Kindergarten Kazuo Ohno Dance Studio
Web production: Naoto Iina
Web text: Toshio Mizohata
Web translation: Mai Honda
Organiser: NPO Dance Archive Network