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Ankoku Butô: The Premodern and Postmodern Influences on the Dance of Utter Darkness

49 AnkokuButo
Susan Blakeley KLEIN
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A brief introduction to the history, philosophy, and techniques of the Japanese avant-garde dance movement, Ankoku Butô. Evoking images of grotesque beauty, revelling in the seamy underside of human behavior, Butô dance groups such as Sankai Juku and Dai Rakuda-kan have performed to wide critical and popular acclaim, making Butô one of the most influential new forces in the dance world today. The monograph traces the development of Butô from its birth in the bleak post-war landscape of 1950's Japan, and then addresses the question of Butô as a post-modern phenomenon, before going on to examine the influence of traditional Japanese performance on Butô techniques. The last chapter analyzes a specific dance (Niwa - The Garden) by Muteki-sha, to show how these techniques are used concretely. Includes translations of four essays on Butô by contemporary Japanese dance critics.


  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1 The Origin and Historical Context of Ankoku Butō
  • Chapter 2 The Butō Aesthetic and a Selection of Techniques
  • Chapter 3 Analysis of Niwa (The Garden)
  • Appendix A "A Preface to Butō"
  • Appendix B "The Paradigm of Butō"
  • Appendix C "On Ankoku Butō"
  • Appendix D "My View of Hoppō Butō-ha"
  • Bibliography of Works Cited

  • Susan Blakeley KLEIN is Associate Professor of Japanese Literature at the University of California, Irvine. In addition to Japanese theater, she specializes in premodern religion and literature. Her most recent book, Allegories of Desire: Esoteric Literary Commentaries of Medieval Japan (Harvard University Press, 2003) is on the medieval development of secret commentaries transmitted in esoteric poetry initiations. Her current research is on the influence of esoteric commentaries in Noh theater. For her next book project she plans to investigate the political, religious, and visual development of premodern Japanese ghosts.

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