Butoh In NY: The NY Butoh Festival At The CAVE

Text by Sohrab Saadat Ladjevardi

Text Sohrab Saadat Ladjevardi

By chance I found out that the The CAVE in New York runs a Butoh festival every two years. I searched for videos of this festival on YouTube and luckily I found three. I was soon really surprised to find out how much this Japanese art form is popular in New York and around the world.

Currently in Japan Butoh is almost unknown, only a few people care and know about this dance performance art. When I lived in Japan I collaborated with a couple of Butoh groups, such as Dai Rakuda Kan, Hoppoh Butoh Ha, and Butoh dancers such as Tanaka Min, Maro Akaji, Ito Kim. My band called SADATO at that time was one of the first bands in Japan incorporating Butoh dancers in their concerts. In those days I loved the Butoh spirit which was anti-establishment, very low-fi, sometimes punkish and raw in its presentation. The first Butoh performance I saw was in Osaka in 1978. A friend of mine invited me to see the show of the Sankai Juku Butoh group who sometime later moved to Paris. This performance moved me so much that I started to cry on several occasions in their performance. I was conquered by the beauty of their movements and crucial face expressions. I experienced humanity, love and beauty personified.

Unfortunately I never had the chance to see a performance of Tatsumi Hijekata, the godfather of Butoh. He was still alive at that time but already considering retirement. Eventually he became terminally ill and died of stomach cancer due to heavy alcohol consumption. What a shame ! His death was a big loss to the Butoh world because nobody after him could follow in his footsteps.