Butoh – the art of darkness, movement and now … food

A dance form originating from the desire to interrogate the darker side of humanity, butoh continues to evolve ... now incorporating a fully functional bar.
butoh. Image is an stark industrial or ruined building with two white painted figures in the centre. Both have wires streaming from their mouths and one is being piggy-backed by the other.

Butoh is a dance form that originated in Japan in the late 1950s and early 60s, but many may know it by its original name “ankoku butoh”, meaning “dance of darkness”. Often characterised by slow, controlled movements with dancers painted head-to-toe in white, butoh is a form of expression that focuses on both physical and psychological states of being.

In the past few decades, however, butoh has evolved into both traditional and contemporary streams. Yumi Umiumare, butoh dancer, choreographer and co-Founder of ButohOUT! festival says when she first came across butoh, it completely changed her understanding of dance. ‘I had classical ballet training when I was little, so when I first saw butoh I was totally shocked. It was the exact opposite of what dance teachers taught us; butoh was everything they said not to do.

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Celina Lei is an arts writer and editor at ArtsHub. She acquired her M.A in Art, Law and Business in New York with a B.A. in Art History and Philosophy from the University of Melbourne. She has previously worked across global art hubs in Beijing, Hong Kong and New York in both the commercial art sector and art criticism. Most recently she took part in drafting NAVA’s revised Code of Practice - Art Fairs. Celina is based in Naarm/Melbourne. Instagram: @lleizy_