Butoh Master Ushio Amagatsu, Founder Of Dance Company Sankai Juku, Is Dead At 74


Ushio Amagatsu, a globally acclaimed performer and choreographer who was a key figure in butoh dance, died on March 25 from heart failure. He was 74.

A funeral was held for close family members. A farewell ceremony for friends and fans will be held at a later date.

Amagatsu had continued working while undergoing treatment for hypopharyngeal cancer.

Born Masakazu Ueshima in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, in 1949, Amagatsu began studying modern dance and ballet after graduating from high school.

In the early 1970s, he started performing butoh, a form of Japanese dance theater, after meeting Tatsumi Hijikata and Kazuo Ono, the two key founders of the genre.

Butoh performances are typically characterized by slow, intense and sometimes contorted movements. The dancers often appear with white body paint and shaved heads, creating a ghostly effect.

In 1972, Amagatsu co-founded the butoh group Dairakudakan with Akaji Maro, and in 1975, he founded the Sankai Juku dance company.

His works have been performed in 48 countries since he embarked on his first world tour in 1980. From 1982, he made the Theatre de la Ville, Paris, his creative base.

He has also collaborated with artists from various genres, including artist Natsuyuki Nakanishi, sculptor Katsura Funakoshi and composer Takashi Kako.

He won the Prix du Syndicat National de la Critique, France, for his direction of the opera “Three Sisters” in 1998 and for “Lady Sarashina” in 2008, both composed by Peter Eotvos.

In 2002, he won the Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Dance Production for “Hibiki–Resonance from Far Away.” In 2007, he won the Asahi Performing Arts Award Grand Prix for “TOKI–A moment in the weave time.”

Amagatsu also presided over the jury of the International Meeting of Dance of Bagnolet, France.

The Japanese government awarded him the Medal with Purple Ribbon in 2011. In 2014, he was awarded the highest rank of the Order of Arts and Letters, the Commander, by the French cultural ministry. 

Amagatsu is the author of “Dialogue with Gravity,” a memoir published in 2015.





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