In a culture distinguished for its visual harmony, the two dancers highlighted ugliness, replacing the conventional Japanese social mask of reticence with one of anguish and even terror . They were in search for something that could go beyond everything they’ve already seen, including their own performing practices.
In the late 1950’s Butoh came out in Japan with a performance titled “Kinjiki” (“Forbidden Colors”) after the Yukio Mishima novel of the same name.
It featured the choreographer Tatsumi Hijikata (1928-1986) playing an older man out to seduce a younger man, Yoshito Ohno, who seemingly smothered a live chicken between his legs. Wrapped in sensationalism for its apparent portrayal of homosexuality and bestiality, it was the birth of a movement.
The audience were outraged and Hijikata was expelled from the festival where the piece was performed.
Hijikata originally called his performance style Ankoku Butoh, or ''dance of darkness and gloom.'' Two Japanese characters make up the word ''butoh'': ''bu'' for dance, ''toh'' for step. It was later shortened to Butoh and drew in the work of a number of other artists.
Butoh which was first rejected in Japan was greatly received later by the western world (especially in Europe in the 70s) and finally gained a big success in Japan in the 80s.
Nowadays Butoh is preformed all over the world and is mentioned in almost every contemporary dance history record.
The contradictions within Butoh is partly the reason why it is so fascinating.
It is an attempt to uncover the dance that already exists, it must emerge from within, and not be imposed.
Butoh uses ' stillness and slow motion to great effect. If done well, these two combined can heighten the awareness of the dancer and their audience to the detail of movement.