Butoh’s Genders

Men in dresses and girl-like women

Authored by: Katherine Mezur

The Routledge Companion to Butoh Performance

Print publication date:  August  2018
Online publication date:  September  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138691094
eBook ISBN: 9781315536132
Adobe ISBN:


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If one imagines the iconic butoh artist, the image might be of Ohno Kazuo’s small, gaunt figure in a charming dress, with a flower held aloft and dark-lined eye make-up with rose-red lipstick, against his powdered whitened skin, and sky-blue eyeshadow. Or next to Ohno, one might see the famous photographs or cine dance films of Hijikata Tatsumi whirling in his satiny flamenco-like skirt or white female kimono. Or, one might have seen Kasai Akira’s skirted or evening gown figure swirl and hover in an ecstatic leap or backbend. Or the image might be the grimaces of Ashikawa Yoko, and her chorus of women in puffy old kimonos and wigs, squatting low and stomping about in their wooden geta. Or perhaps the ubiquitous butoh body image is the white-powdered, nearly naked and wasted, male body, like Muroboshi Kō, with bent-knees, caved in chest, and spider-like arms, with a toothless grin, his eyes making white slits as he rolls his pupils into the upper lids. Every body, male or female or trans, genders butoh differently.

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