Hommage à la Argentina
Admiring la Argentina
With a mental click, the Japanese dancer Kazuo Ohno appears: long white dress, face powdered, a black bob topped with a floral hat. Admiring la Argentina, his emblematic solo devised in 1977 (when he was 71), brought Ohno international fame, and he performed it for over twenty years.
In 1926 he watched a flamenco show featuring the Spanish dancer Antonia Mercé, known as 'La Argentina'. 50 years later in 1977, when he attended an exhibition by his friend Natsuyuki Nakanishi, he froze in front of a painting, recognising behind the splashes of colour and abstract lines the face of Antonia Mercé, the inspiration for his famous solo.
His dress and his face share the same crumpled, fragile appearance, the costume being an extension of the fragile body of the dancer and his character, La Argentina; reciprocally, this cross-dressing reveals the old man's body as well as that of the great dancer to whom he pays homage.
Source : Maison de la Danse de Lyon
Kazuo Ohno was born in Hakodate City, Hokkaido, on October 27 in 1906. 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.
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.
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.
On Tuesday 1 June 2010, Kazuo Ohno died from respiratory failure at the Senin Hoken hospital in Yokohama, in the Tokyo suburbs. He was 103.
Source: Kazuo Ohno Dance Studio 's website
More information : kazuoohnodancestudio.com
Author, filmmaker and video artist Charles Picq (1952-2012) entered working life in the 70s through theatre and photography. A- fter resuming his studies (Maîtrise de Linguistique - Lyon ii, Maîtrise des sciences et Techniques de la Communication - grenoble iii), he then focused on video, first in the field of fine arts at the espace Lyonnais d'art Contemporain (ELAC) and with the group « Frigo », and then in dance.
On creation of the Maison de la Danse in Lyon in 1980, he was asked to undertake a video documentation project that he has continued ever since. During the ‘80s, a decade marked in France by the explosion of contemporary dance and the development of video, he met numerous artists such as andy Degroat, Dominique Bagouet, Carolyn Carlson, régine Chopinot, susanne Linke, Joëlle Bouvier and regis Obadia, Michel Kelemenis. He worked in the creative field with installations and on-stage video, as well as in television with recorded shows, entertainment and documentaries.
His work with Dominique Bagouet (80-90) was a unique encounter. He documents his creativity, assisting with Le Crawl de Lucien and co-directing with his films Tant Mieux, Tant Mieux and 10 anges. in the 90s he became director of video development for the Maison de la Danse and worked, with the support of guy Darmet and his team, in the growing space of theatre video through several initiatives:
- He founded a video library of dance films with free public access. This was a first for France. Continuing the video documentation of theatre performances, he organised their management and storage.
- He promoted the creation of a video-bar and projection room, both dedicated to welcoming school pupils.
- He started «présentations de saisons» in pictures.
- He oversaw the DVD publication of Le tour du monde en 80 danses, a pocket video library produced by the Maison de la Danse for the educational sector.
- He launched the series “scènes d'écran” for television and online. He undertook the video library's digital conversion and created Numeridanse.
His main documentaries are: enchaînement, Planète Bagouet, Montpellier le saut de l'ange, Carolyn Carlson, a woman of many faces, grand ecart, Mama africa, C'est pas facile, Lyon, le pas de deux d'une ville, Le Défilé, Un rêve de cirque.
He has also produced theatre films: Song, Vu d'ici (Carolyn Carlson), Tant Mieux, Tant Mieux, 10 anges, Necesito and So schnell, (Dominique Bagouet), Im bade wannen, Flut and Wandelung (Susanne Linke), Le Cabaret Latin (Karine Saporta), La danse du temps (Régine Chopinot), Nuit Blanche (Abou Lagraa), Le Témoin (Claude Brumachon), Corps est graphique (Käfig), Seule et WMD (Françoise et Dominique Dupuy), La Veillée des abysses (James Thiérrée), Agwa (Mourad Merzouki), Fuenteovejuna (Antonio Gades), Blue Lady revistied (Carolyn Carlson).
Source: Maison de la Danse de Lyon
Choreography : Kazuo Ohno
Production / Coproduction of the video work : Maison de la Danse
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