Meeting Kazuo Ohno & Dinner With Yoshito

On Saturday night after class I was fortunate to visit Kazuo Ohno in his bed. He woke up when we came into his room, then dozed, then woke again while we were there. I held his beautiful hands and in my excitement blurted out many silly things . . . “honor to meet you. . . . waited for this moment for 12 years . . . thrilling to touch your lovely, expressive hands . . . so much admiration . . .  at this moment fulfilling the ultimate butoh dance . . . thankful to be a witness . . . fulfilling moment in my life . . . and so on.” I am sure he hears this all the time from so many admirers.  Meeting Kazuo Ohno, on his death bed was truly one of the top ten! Continue reading “Meeting Kazuo Ohno & Dinner With Yoshito”

Yoshito Ohno

After teaching class, Yoshito, son of butoh founder Kazuo Ohno, often dances with a puppet of Kazuo, to the music of Elvis. It is really a treat!

On Saturday night we danced a requiem for Pina Bausch, avant garde German choreographer and dear friend of the Ohnos, who died on Friday June 26. We danced about strength and delicacy to “Amazing Grace” and “Ave Maria.” There were students from Brazil, Thailand, Israel, Japan and the US. It was quite powerful!

Yoshito with Kazuo puppetKazuo has a generous and warm personality. Because he was in the first ankoku butoh performance when he was 14 he has been present for the entire history of the genre.  His classes are filled with quotes and stories about Hijikata and Kazuo.

A Visit to Old Edo

Yanaka Cemetery /City View, Tokyo photo by JBGThis district was one of the few in Tokyo to escape most of the destruction of the 1923 earthquake and WWII bombing. There are many old wooden houses, shops and temples. In addition, there is a lovely old cemetery and many Japanese style mansions. I had a lovely time getting lost in the warren of narrow streets.
The photo is taken from inside the cemetery with a view of Tokyo skyscrapers in the background.

Japanese Toilets

Washiki (traditional Japanese toilet)This may not be appropriate but who am I if not inappropriate.

I have experienced two types of toilets while here–the washiki and the washlet. The washiki is the traditional Japanese squat type toilet, named for the
position one assumes to use it, squatting down facing the hooded end of a usually porcelain trough. The washiki is considered more hygienic and wastes less water than a Western toilet, but using one can pose several problems–missing the trough altogether, splattering yourself or falling in the trough.

At the other extreme is the washlet which looks very much like a standard Western toilet. However the add-ons are positively Star Trek-esque. Washlets come with a heated seat, bidet with buttons for front or back spray, controls for temperature and jet power, as well as a dryer. There is also an “etiquette” button that provides flushing sounds to cover up any straining, groaning or splashing noises you may make.

What fun to use the bathroom in Japan!

First Week In Japan

Torii (entrance to shrine)

I have spent my first week in Japan and it has been filled with new adventures — learning how to master the train system, dancing with Natsu Nakajima, visiting musems, Shinto shrines and buddhist temples. I am enjoying a great deal of “ma,” a Japanese word that means both space and time. What a pleasure to have the leisure to dance, walk, read, write, eat or sleep at my convenience. Thank you NC Arts Council for this luxury.  I am learning to enjoy being lost or confused, to just wander and to not understand.

Continue reading “First Week In Japan”

Arrival in Japan

I finally arrived in Japan after a 6-hour flight delay due to volcanic eruptions in Russia and Japan.  After a 2-hour train ride,  I arrived at my hotel in Yokohama. My room is very little and cute; I feel like a giant. The bathroom and kitchen are right across the hall and everything is clean and neat. I have internet in my room for free, so since I have lots of time on my hands, I will be able to keep up with email and ashevillebutoh posts. Tonight I will take a workshop with Yoshito Ohno here in Yokohama, if I can find the studio. On Monday I will take a workshop with Natsu Nakajima in Tokyo. I am most excited about these classes and will share more later.

Preparations for Travel

I’ve got my new computer ordered and my packing is almost complete. I am trying to take as little as possible because I have to schlep it all.  Every day I learn something new about Japan or butoh. I am making friends on the internet as I research housing, workshops and travel I look forward to meeting them when I arrive.


publicity photo for "out there out here"
publicity photo for "out there out here"

Premiere of “Lifeblood” at Warren Wilson College

What: Butoh Performance

Where: The Pavillion at Warren Wilson College

When: Tuesday May 12, 2009, 6:30 PM (Bring a picnic)


“Lifeblood” a collaborative duet with Julie Becton Gillum and Michael McCue will premiere.  The piece explores friendship and gender roles. A new piece, yet to be titled, will be performed by the WWC butoh class. In addition, the Modern Dance Technique class will perform a demonstration of the work they have accomplished this semester and Heather Sevcik will perform a piece inspired by her independent study “Affects of Sexual Abuse on Pregnancy, Birth and Mothering.”

Julie in Japan

I just received the 2008-09 NC Choreography Fellowship and will be going to Japan June 16 – September 15 to study butoh. At the present I am arranging housing.  I am planning to stay in Yokohama near Kazuo Ohno’s studio where I will be studying 3 days a week.  I have also been in touch with  Akaji Maru (director of Dairakudakan) and Semimaru (director of Sankai Juku) and plan to take their workshops in August.  Natsu Nakajima worked with Hijikata during the early years of butoh and is still an active force in the world of international butoh. I  have connected with her and arranged to study in Tokyo.

I am so excited and a little nervous about my impending visit to Japan. I know it will be a time of personal growth for me as an artist. Though I have been studying Japanese, the language is quite difficult; I am an old dog and it is hard to learn a new trick.

“Butoh History in Asheville” (1997-the present)

  • "Alchemy" performed at Galapagos Art Space, NY
    "Alchemy" performed at Galapagos Art Space, NY

    1997    Julie Becton Gillum (JBG), Susan and Giles Collard attended Min Tanaka’s performance based on the life and writings of Edgar Allan Poe, PS 122, New York

  • 1998    GooSayTen, featuring Itto Morita and Mika Takeuchi, workshop and performance at BeBe Theatre
  • 1998-2002     (5 summers) JBG attends San Francisco Butoh Festival
  • 2000   (May) Soul Motion concert produced by JD Project (JBG and Dana Davis) at YMI Cultural Center, Premiere of “Cairn” (first butoh choreography by JBG)
  • 2000   1st Asheville Butoh Festival with guest artists Itto Morita, Mika Takeuchi and Goo Say Ten at BeBe Theatre
  • 2001    2nd Asheville Butoh Festival with performances by JBG, butohmoshpitt (Jenni Cockrell and Shawn Oldham), Susan and Giles Collard
  • 2002   (July) Last year of San Francisco Butoh Festival, JBG invited to perform “Cairn” at the festival opening in Yerba Buena Gardens
  • 2003   (July) JBG performs “Mound” at American Dance Festival, “Opening Acts”
  • 2003   3rd Asheville Butoh Festival with guest artist Diego Pinon, workshop and performance at BeBe Theatre
  • 2004   (March) Asheville Butoh Festival, BeBe Theatre, guest Diego Pinon performance and workshops, Butohmoshpit, Mound
  • 2004   An Evening of Dance, BeBe Theatre, premiere of “Keng-San-Ku” conceived and directed by JBG
  • 2004   (August) JBG attends workshop with Diego Pinon, Tlalpujahua, Mexico
  • 2004   (September) JBG performs “Mound” and “Nuclear Family, butohmoshpit performs “Wedding,” Moving Women perform “Moon,” @ LAAFF, Asheville
  • 2004   (October) Diego Pinon in residence teaching workshops, Eagles Home Studio
  • 2004   (October) JBG performs “Mound” at “onearmred” New York
  • 2005   (January) JBG directs “Feather” installation for Asheville Fringe Arts Festival, Wedge Gallery, Asheville
  • 2005   (February) “Keng-San-Ku,”choreographed by JBG, performed by Jenni Cockrell @ NC Dance Festival, Diana Wortham Theatre, Asheville
  • 2005   (April) JBG performs “Stair Piece” for Red Night Cabaret @ Eagles Home Studio
  • 2005   (June) JBG performs “Haiku Spring” @ Morganton Arts Festival
  • 2005   (July) JBG attends workshop with Diego Pinon, Tlalpujahua, Mexico
  • 2005   (September) Julie performs “Mound” at Chicago Cultural center (3 performances) and at the Spare Room, Chicago (2    performances)
  • 2005   (October) “Welcome To Butoh” Tryon, NC, a series of butoh pieces choreographed by JBG, produced by Michael McCue – premiere of “Alchemy” at Tryon Arts Center; “Haiku” performed at Blue Ridge Community College; “Cairn” performed at Rogers Park amphitheatre; “Mound” private performance for members of Upstairs Gallery
  • 2005   (October) JBG performs solo version of “Alchemy” for NY Butoh Festival, Galapagos Art Space
  • 2005   (October) Julie performs “Alchemy” solo in the Nightmare Cabaret @ the Grey Eagle in Asheville
  • 2005   (November) JBG performs solo “Alchemy” @ BeBe Theatre with Julia Taylor performing “Embrace”
  • 2005   (November) full “Alchemy” performed at WWC
  • 2006   (January) JBG performs solo “Alchemy” @ Jolie Rouge Pirate Cabaret
  • 2006   (February) JBG performs “Butap” for NC Dance Festival, Diana Wortham Theatre, Asheville
  • 2006   (March) JBG attends workshop /rehearsal for Monarch Project with Diego Pinon and workshop with Yumiko Yoshioka, Chicago
  • 2006   (April) JBG works with Kathy Myers students at Asheville School on a production of “Masque of the Red Death”
  • 2006   (July) JBG produces “Butoh and Beyond” with guest artists: butohmoshpit, Rachel Finan, Lani Fand-Weissbach, and Crystal Sabbagh
  • 2006   (August) JBG attends workshop /rehearsal for Monarch Project with Diego Pinon, Tlalpujahua, Mexico
  • 2006   (September) Legacy Butoh performs “Funeral For America” @ LAAFF, Asheville
  • 2006   (September) Legacy Butoh performs “Funeral For America” @ WWC
  • 2006   (September) Legacy Butoh performs “Trio” and “Maze” for River Sculpture Festival, Amboy Road River Park
  • 2007   (January) JBG directs “Butoh Buddies” performed at Asheville Fringe Arts Festival
  • 2007   (April) Julia Taylor performs “Embrace” @ BeBe Theatre, Asheville
  • 2007   (May)”Butoh and Beyond? at WWC guest artists “Moving Women”
  • 2007   (June) Legacy Butoh (JBG and Elisa Faires) produces film for URTV, Asheville
  • 2007   (September) “Pledge” premiered at River Sculpture Festival
  • 2007   (October) Tina Ford-Cox, JBG, Manon Manavit, Mike McCue, and Julia Taylor attend NY Butoh Festival
  • 2008   (December) JBG attend workshop at Butoh Ritualo Mexicano with Diego Pinon, Tlalpujahua, Mexico
  • 2008   (January) JBG performs “Haiku-War and Peace” (with dove release) at Vance Monument for Asheville Fringe Arts Festival
  • 2008   (January) “Pledge” Asheville Fringe Arts Festival
  • 2008   (May) JBG performs “Haiku Spring” @ Four Seasons Arts Council, fundraiser, Hendersonville
  • 2008   (June) JBG attend workshop with Tadishi Endo, Cave, New York
  • 2008   (July) JBG performs “Pledge” for Butoh Across Generations, Sal Anthony’s Movement Salon, New York; teaches workshop at Joyce Soho
  • 2008   (September) Monarch Project, directed by Diego Pinon, premieres in Chicago at School of the Art Institute and Osaka Park
  • 2008   (October) “outthereouthere” with John Crutchfield, directed by Ron Bashford, performance at NC Stage Catalyst Series
  • 2008   (October)  JBG in residence @ U. of Iowa – workshop and performance of “Pledge” and “Butap”
  • 2008   (October) Butoh Halloween installation for “Haunted Busride,” Lazoom Bus
  • 2008   (September) JBG performs “Blessing” for the opening of the River Sculpture Festival, Reynold’s Mountain Park
  • 2008   (October) JBG performs “Tunnel” @ River Sculpture Festival, Reynolds Mountain Park
  • 2008   (November) The Monarch Project, directed by Diego Pinon, workshop and performance of “Mariposa” at Warren Wilson College
  • 2009   (January) Premiere of “Zombie Jesus,” with music by Marcus Chatfield and Duke Ramuten, Lazoom Bus Tour, Asheville Fringe Arts Festival
  • 2009   (February) JBG performs butoh improvisation for “Voicing BMC: The Women” @ Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center
  • 2009   (April) JBG hosts Maureen “MOMO” Freehill in Asheville, workshop at Warren Wilson College and performance at Sacred Embodiment Center, 31 Carolina Lane