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Artist aAn Ovewview.
2004.12.6
The Most Recent Trends in Contemporary Dance TSUBOIKE,Eiko(Director of Institute for the Arts)  
 
The Rise of Contemporary Dance as a Departure from Butoh.
Japan’s dance scene (aside from traditional classical dance and folk dance) can be classified into four categories: classical ballet, modern dance, Butoh, which has been extremely well received overseas and which was founded in 1959 by Tatsumi Hijikata; and contemporary dance, in which individual artists depart from existing methods and traditions and pursue original physical expression.
The Butoh scene is still dominated by its first generation of dancers. For example, Kazuo Ono, the world’s oldest Butoh dancer at the age of 97, continues performing, even though he is confined to a wheelchair. Ushio Amagatsu’s company, Sankaijuku, pre-miers a new work at the “Theatre de la Ville”, Paris every two years and tours in the world. Dairakudakan celebrated its thirtieth anniversary in 2002. Akira Kasai is still active not only as an improvisational dancer but also as a choreographer.
The second generation includes Min Tanaka, who directs the genre-breaking Dance Hakushu in Yamanashi prefecture. Among the dancers active on an individual basis is Setsuko Yamada (currently associate professor at Kyoto University of Art and Design), who founded dance company Biwakei in 1989 and who has trained many young dancers. And the Butoh dancer Ko Murobushi is also highly regarded. Yet even though these dancers are prominent in the dance world, the genre of Butoh as a whole is no longer giving rise to a succession of new talent.
Instead, we see contemporary dance arising to take the place of Butoh. Contemporary dancers take the possibilities for physical expression cultivated by Butoh and develop them in new ways. For example, Saburo Teshigawara, a post-Butoh talent who has attracted a great deal attention, was awarded the Bagnolet International Choreography Prize in 1986. His success in Europe brought contemporary dance to people’s attention.
In addition, the appreciation of the yen during the bubble economy beginning in the mid 1980s brought increased opportunities to engage performing artists, which previously had been difficult due to the expense. At that time, Nouvelle Danse was the leading trend in Europe, and Nouvelle Danse companies were highly touted in the media when they were brought to Japan along with operas and musicals. These performances in Japan by companies from overseas created an audience for contemporary dance for the first time and led to the current boom.
After the collapse of the bubble economy, public theaters, beginning with the Saitama Arts Theater and including the Kanagawa Kenmin Hall and Biwako Hall, took an active role in engaging famous foreign companies. They continued maintaining an environment in which the works of world-class artists such as Pina Bausch, William Forsythe, Jiri Kylian, and Philippe Decouflé could be seen.
The stimulus from the world’s contemporary dance companies was one factor in developments during the 1990s. Kim Ito’s company followed Teshigawara in winning the Best Newcomer Prize at the Bagnolet International Choreography Prize. The company known as H. Art Chaos won the Dance of the Year from the New York Times with its acrobatic performances imbued with a unique esthetic. Idevian Crew followed a creed based on freely conceived ideas and humor that go beyond the framework of dance. “Mizu to Abura” developed mime in new ways. The Condors achieved great success with their entertainingacts of dance and storytelling performed by an all-male troupe dressed in school uniforms. These and other companies came into being with theatrically exciting performances.
Moving into the 21st century, support from public funds and private corporations was a factor in the simultaneous establishment of several festivals and prizes, which encouraged the debuts of a new generation of artists born in the 1960s and 1970s. Many individual styles competed for attention, and the situation was comparable to the proliferation of dramatic performances in small-theater during the 1980s.
 
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