BUTOH can either fascinate the audience or confuse them. The genre is hard to pin down because the dance movement is always fluid. For Taketeru Kudo, he took up butoh because of its simplicity.
Born in 1967 in Tokyo, Kudo was studying French literature at Keio University he was acting, doing modern dance and nichibu –a traditional Japanese dance form. Life changed for the graduate when he had his first encounter with butoh dance.
“The art of butoh tends to reject anything about technique. I even did not intend to ‘take up’ butoh. It all depends on what we want to say to the world through the body…”
As the production notes for Kudo’s upcoming shows and workshop state: “The body of a Butoh dancer is like an empty vessel, it should be able to contain any material on earth that emerges through the imagery of the movements made.”
Kudo’s journey saw him studying under Koichi Tamano in the United States. After appearing on stage with Tamano and Yukio Waguri, he began dancing solo in 1992.
Before he established his own troupe, Tokyo Gien-kan, he was a member of well-known butoh dance troupe Sankai Juku till 1998. Many dance fans would have caught Sankai Juku’s performances in Malaysia.
Kudo’s troupe is said to channel the spirits of Jean-Louis Barrault, Vaslav Fomich Nijinsky and Yukio Mishima.
Recently, he started performing and holding workshops around the world.
The award-winning butoh performer has showcased his 2011 work, A Vessel of Ruins, to much acclaim around the world. It is said to be a prediction of the Fukushima disaster that attacked Japan in 2011. His other works include The Umbrella Goes West, and The Dream of Descending to the Ocean.
The styles of butoh have grown since it began in 1959 in Tokyo with Tatsumi Hijikata and Yoshito Ono. Japanese society then called it scandalous.
Today, butoh is often seen as surreally beautiful. But it does not focus on the beauty of the physical form, but more on expressions.
For Kudo: “My style might come up when I come to overcome any style which already exists.”
He will perform at the Damansara Performing Artsc Centre soon. He will also give workshops and masterclasses.
His visit is presented by Soubi Sha, produced by Checkmate Creative, and supported by Japan Foundation Kuala Lumpur.
Soubi Sha director Yeow Lai Chee says Kudo is part of a three-year butoh exchange programme starting this year.
“Butoh has been practised in Malaysia since 1995. However, it is still considered relatively small in the whole Malaysian performing arts scene. This is due to the minute number of butoh dancers and companies in this country who are able to provide butoh training and education.
“Hence, besides local butoh artistes, Soubi Sha aims to invite professional butoh artistes — especially those from Japan — to collaborate with the local dancers and to provide butoh training.”
Yeow hopes the show and workshops will give the local artistes and audience a new perspective of this art form and further enhance their curiosity in exploring butoh rather than merely a “one-time butoh experience”.
In 2012-2014, Soubi Sha brought a collaboration between butoh master Yukio Waguri, who had worked with butoh co-founder Hijikata, and participating Malaysian dancers.
Would Kudo be looking for potential dancers during the workshops and masterclasses, one wonders. “Yes, of course. It is them who remind me of why I have a workshop while I am not a teacher, but a single artist.”
On what frustrates him when doing workshops, Kudo says: “It is always a shame to me to see people just following their own images of butoh!
“I do not know anything about what is going on with butoh in Malaysia. Maybe, I can tell it after I finish the itinerary this time,” he adds.
“I imagine they do not have to follow the ideas of butoh. It is better and more creative to seek a form of their own that fits the physicality of this era.”
A Vessel of Ruins: Butoh Solo Performance by Taketeru Kudo
When: Oct 21-22, 2016
Where: Black Box, Damansara Performing Arts Centre (DPAC), 8.30pm
** this story appeared in the new straits times http://www.nst.com.my/news/2016/10/180679/kudos-kudo-butoh-artist-taketeru-kudo-takes-msian-stage-his-solo-performance