A Short History of Ankoku Butoh

Ankoku Butoh (暗黒舞踏, ankoku butō) is a post-war Japanese dance movement that has achieved worldwide recognition. Literally meaning “dance of utter darkness” and commonly known as just Butoh, this is an abbreviated timeline of its development in Japan.

kamaitachi hosoe eikoh hijikata tatsumi

1959: Premiere of Kinjiki (Forbidden Colours) by Tatsumi Hijikata, performed by Hijikata and Yoshito Ohno, and generally accepted as the first iteration of Butoh

1965: Premiere of Rose-colored Dance: To M. Shibusawa’s House by Hijikata

1966: Akira Kasai resurrects the use of the name butō that Hijikata had previously used, though the word itself goes back to the 19th century (the exact credit for the origin of the term “Butoh” and “Ankoku Butoh” is murky)

1968: Tatsumi Hijikata and the Japanese: Rebellion of the Body, performed solo by Hijikata

1972: A series of 27 consecutive performances by Hijikata and his dancers brings mainstream success to Butoh in Tokyo, attracting a total audience of 8,500; the troupe Dairakudakan is founded by Akaji Maro

1975: Sankai Juku is founded by Ushio Umagatsu; Bishop Yamada forms Hoppo Butoh-ha

1976: Asbestos Hall (Hijikata’s studio) closes

1978: Kō Murobushi stages Butoh in Paris, launching international recognition for the dance movement

1980: Sankai Juku performs in Europe

1982: Dairakudakan performs in France and America

1985: A Sankai Juku dancer, Yoshiyuki Takada, accidentally falls and dies during a performance in America while suspended from the outside of a building

1986: Death of Tatsumi Hijikata

1998: Hijikata Tatsumi Archive is established at Keio University Art Center

2010: Death of Kazuo Ohno

2014: Death of Kō Murobushi; Umagatsu is made Ordre des Arts et des Lettres

2016: Butohkan, the first theatre in Japan dedicated to Butoh, opens in Kyoto


One response to “A Short History of Ankoku Butoh

  1. I’ve heard the word butoh quite a bit growing up, never knew it was a dance. I suppose since I’m now in Japan I could actually find a theater that hosts such a dance… I kind of learned of a dance recently that is done at festivals… has something to do with cranes, I honestly can not remember the name at the moment though. But it seems Japan has quite a bit of interesting dance throughout it’s history.


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