Ohno sensei has passed away (2010). He was one of the great dancers, an adventurer of deep beauty butoh dance landscape. He marveled audiences worldwide.In class, sometimes he showed us images of a mythical river creature, kapo, sometimes he spoke of dancing the love of my mother’s womb, or of crossing a bridge in the presence of my father’s spirit in a field of lavender irissss. We sat at his feet in his Yokohama studio, he sat on the upholstered chair and laid out art books opened to specific images. He told us stories in Japanese. I didn’t understand, there was a scattering of translation, but beyond the words, his expressive face and his hands, especially his hands told me all I needed to know, it was clear, the light in his eyes, the deep feeling of generous emotion. Sometimes he would demonstrate for us. He would have his assistant put on some music, and he would dance for us. Then he would say Dance, free dance. He wanted us to connect with our essence and let that dictate the movements, the expression.
Last week at the San Francisco Arts Festival, Anton of the Russian dance group Derevo spoke after their performance: ” there are two paths in Butoh Dance, there is the Hijikata, the Ankoku Butoh, the dance of darkness and then there is Ohno, who dances light, love, illumination.” I am paraphrasing a bit and I would hesitate to simplify butoh to that extent (there are many more paths than that) Butoh is now, it is Zen, it is the expression of the creator, and the creation in connection with all. Ohno has passed, however his pathway carries many forward, his dances engraved in the hearts of countless beings, traces of graceful curves, and hands gesturing towards the heavens where no doubt he now resides.