The Japan Foundation
Performing Arts Network Japan
Yukio Suzuki
Yukio Suzuki
Born in 1972. Suzuki studied butoh at the Asbestos-kan (Asbestos House) from 1997 and danced in the works of Ko Murobushi and other artists. In 2000 he started the group Kingyo. He gained attention in the dance world for his documentary-like style of directing and choreography that uses compelling placement of dancers with a strong emphasis on their physical presence. In recent years he has expanded his activities as a choreographer with projects like choreographing for dancers of the Tokyo City Ballet Company and participating in the Asian Dance Conference. He also conducts workshops based on butoh methodology. With a highly sensitive consciousness of the body, he conducts programs around the country aimed at creating dancer-specific works. In 2003 he won the ST Spot Lab Award. In 2004 he participated in the final Next-Next program of the Saison Foundation. In 2005 he was the Session House resident artist. In 2007 he was nominated for the Kyoto Arts Center Performing Arts Award 2007. In the Toyota Choreography Awards he was winner of the Audience Award in 2005 and the Choreographer of the Next Generation (grand prize) award in 2008.

“Kingyo” website:
Kotoba no Saki (The Point of Words) (2008)
The Point of Words
The Point of Words
The Point of Words
The Point of Words
©Shinsuke Hatashima
Chinmoku to Hakariaeruhodoni
(Confronting Silence) (2007)
view clip
Confronting Silence
©Yohta Kataoka
Confronting Silence
©Takayoshi Susaki
Confronting Silence
Confronting Silence
©Shinji Kubo
an overview
Artist Interviewアーティストインタビュー
The new realm of contemporary dance pioneered by Yukio Suzuki, an inheritor of the compelling body movement of butoh  
Winner of the Toyota Choreography Award 2008 “Nextage–Choreographer of the Next Generation” prize, Yukio Suzuki is one of the most talked-about choreographers and dancers in Japan today. Having studied butoh at the “Karada no Gakko” (School of the Body) of the Asbestos-kan (base of the original founder of butoh, Tatsumi Hijikata) and from Ko Murobushi, the works born from Suzuki’s highly trained body are ripe with compelling tension. While leading his own company Kingyo, Suzuki also dances for Murobushi’s company Ko & Edge Co. The 1972-born Suzuki talks about how he first encountered butoh and what he seeks in his dance today. It is an interview that reveals his thoughts about butoh.
(Interviewer: Tatsuro Ishii)

You began studying butoh from 1997 at Asbestos-kan. Therefore, I believe that is your point of departure in dance, but were you involved in any other types of dance before that?
Up until high school I played soccer and was totally involved in sports. I was born and raised in Shizuoka Prefecture and moved to Tokyo in 1990 to attend college. My first big encounter in Tokyo was film. I became absorbed in the movies of Shuji Terayama and David Lynch and movies like Wim Wenders’ Paris, Texas. I wanted to try shooting a movie of my own, but I knew that would take a lot of money. Instead I entered a small theater company with the intention of becoming an actor, which was something that required no more than one’s own body.
 I did theater for about two years but I found that I had an ongoing discomfort with saying my lines. I was especially uncomfortable when we would do practice sessions where I had to improvise lines spontaneously, and I couldn’t do it well. To begin with, I am not a person who speaks easily with people and I always felt embarrassed when the script called for me to shout out dramatic lines.
 It was then that a colleague in the company told me about this awesome art form called butoh. I had no idea what butoh was at the time, so I found a performance and went to see it but there was nothing interesting about it for me at first and I wondered what was supposed to be awesome about it (laughs). But among the leaflets I got at that performance I happened to see a notice about a workshop to be held at the Asbestos-kan and I thought that maybe if I used that to test myself I might find out what was so awesome about butoh. So I decided to attend the workshop.
 The workshop was planned as a two-month series of sessions taught by different butoh artists. I was taught by Kazuo Ono, by Yoshito Ono, by Akira Kasai, by Koichi Tamano and by Moe Yamamoto, and all of them had their own distinct style and character. One after another all these famous butoh masters came to Asbestos-kan to teach us. In addition to the butoh masters we were also given a photo workshop by photographer Eiko Hosoe.

After [butoh pioneer] Tatsumi Hijikata’s death his wife, Akiko Motofuji, began the “Karada no Gakko” (School of the Body) that you took part in. The classes were conducted in small groups with a wonderful slate on instructors, not only from butoh but from different genre as well. While Hijikata was still alive, he seemed to dominate the atmosphere at Asbestos-kan as the king of butoh, but when Motofuji took over after his death the style became very open, I believe. And that is the atmosphere in which you had your first real encounter with butoh, wasn’t it?
I experienced butoh at that time and found the fascination in using the body. Everything about that experience was fresh and new. With ballet, for example, you may think it is a wonderful art, but it is not something that you can just do and pick right away. Butoh is different, however. With butoh, all you need is your body. If you want to use your voice, you can use it. Eventually I quit college and continued to go to Asbestos-kan to study while working part time. That was in 1997 and ’98 when I was around 24. I tended to be reclusive when I was in college, reading books all the time and was something of an egghead. People in butoh have a tendency to be very careful and serious about their use of words, and I felt that when I was using my body in butoh it helped me achieve a solid, balanced relationship between words (the mind) and the body.

That was where you also began to experience performing in front of an audience, wasn’t it?
I was able to perform in a lot of Motofuji’s works. It happened to be at the time of the 30th anniversary of Tatsumi Hijikata’s death and there were performances at the Mito Art Museum and the Aichi Art Center that I performed in. Motofuji, Kazuo and Yoshito Ono danced the main parts while the rest of us appeared on stage like objet or in short group dance parts. We did a variety of things, like just standing there bare-bodied or just jumping (laughs).
 After a while we students began doing our own small productions and performances. For those performances I began creating my own short pieces. After that I also participated in performances by groups consisting of dancers who had formerly studied at Dairakudakan, such as Daizuko Farm, SAL VANILLA and YAN-SHU. That is where I first experience the Dairakudakan style of practicing (training) butoh, and it was another form of culture shock for me.

In Dairakudakan style butoh, works are created from the base of some very strictly defined forms. It must have been very different from the butoh you learned from Motofuji, Kazuo Ono and Yoshito Ono.
Yes. There was more concern with “forms” and more group dance than what I learned at Asbestos-kan. At first I was often told, “You certainly an Asbestos student.” That was a big complex for me at the time and it made things hard for me. However, gradually I learned the joys of the new style and there was a time when I actually wanted to join Dairakudakan and study there for a while, but someone told me, “You are too impressionable. It is better that you not go there.” If it wasn’t for that bit of advice, I would probably be dancing as a member of Dairakudakan today (laughs).

Having learned what could be called “butoh” from a number of different teachers, when was it that you became aware that you wanted to do your own creative works within the genre of butoh? And what were the circumstances that turned you in that direction?
The people who have studied at Dairakudakan have a saying “one person, one school [style of dance].” They all have the idea that eventually they will become independent and pursue their own style of expression. When I was performing with SAL VANILLA, they told me I could use their group as a springboard for pursuing my own creative work. So while I was performing with them I also began to perform solo pieces of my own. I began doing that regularly from about 1998, and in 2000 I asked some friends to join me to start a new company that we named “Bulldog Ekisu (extract/essence).” The member were people I had met at Asbestos and former Dairakudakan people I had worked with. It was like people saying “Let’s start a band!” (laughs). It was that kind of spontaneous momentum that we wanted to start a group to pursue our own forms of physical expression. At that time I had promised myself that I would do one group production and one solo work a year. And ever since then I have maintained that pace of performances of my own works.

At that time, did you consider what you were doing to be butoh?
To tell the truth, I didn’t know at the time that butoh was a form of dance (laughs). I thought that butoh was butoh, dance was dance and theater was theater. But when we went overseas we were called butoh dancers. Gradually I realized that butoh was a form of dance. When I first started butoh I was satisfied with the idea that we simply whitewashed ourselves and became butoh bodies [through our training]. However, I gradually came to feel that I wanted to dance my own form of creative dance. So, when we started Bulldog Ekisu, I didn’t use whitewash, I danced in regular clothes and in a style that was completely different from butoh. But since the audience was always our butoh colleagues, they’d say, “What is this supposed to be?” They didn’t understand what I was trying to do.
| 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 |