Kazuo Ohno, a pioneer of the Japanese avant-garde dance form Butoh, died today at 103 years old.

Influenced by Artaud and De Sade, Ohno wrote how dance was about acceptance of the scars of living until "a world of poetry . . . can only be expressed through your body."

On the act of creation, he said, "To appear on a bare stage with no preparation does not mean that it contains nothing. On the contrary . . . the vacant space is gradually getting filled and in the end something is realized there. Something happening in the process fills the space up.

"This may be the kind of thing one can gradually be convinced of over a lifetime. But in my case, fortunately, I instantaneously knew the fact that the empty space actually was full. And I just danced in joy and excitement."

There are lessons in his example, I think, for writers: our stories are always present -- the blank page is filled with words -- there is freedom in this awareness.

Here's the New York Times obituary.

Here's a beautiful series of YouTube clips compiled by A D Jameson at Big Other.

Lastly, Ohno's "Message to the Universe" at SnailCrow about "wide-gazing into the palm, seeing death, life, joy and sorrow with a sense of tranquility" is a final word worthy of the man himself.

"I wish to dance the dance of wild grass to the utmost of my heart."
- Kazuo Ohno

photo by Beth Barone


  1. Wonderful tribute to a unique person.

  2. Thank you, Lynn. I feel like Butoh's an endless mine for inspiration: deep feeling, intense physicality, fearless mind-bending... something like embodied transcendence, if such a paradox can be achieved. In a word, Ohno and his kin are badass.