June 6, 2010

Kazuo Ohno dead (Portuguese and English) Theater is not only larger than life…

IF you were to ask me what was the most mystical experience in the theater in all these past decades, I can say without shivering or even taking half a breath: Kazuo Ohno.

It was here in New York, at La MaMa, that we hosted him for the first time. When was that? Must have been at the end of the seventies, early eighties. A couple of years later I saw him perform again, at the very end of a twisty alleyway in Ropongui, Tokyo. Ohno made out of his art, the ritual of death. Yes, his Butoh was different from that of Min Tanaka’s and Sankai Juku’s.

Ohno incorporated something or, rather, ‘someone else’. What that was exactly, is difficult to tell. There’s the rub: Who will ever be able to really explain art? Who will ever be able to explain that which makes you (willingly or not), swallow the essence of what you are and feel it with all its pain beating as a heart at the core of your chest?

In his late ‘progressive age”: 70 or older, this female of a male performer who got his inspiration from something I recall was titled La Argentina ( a Dietrich version of a piece he had seen in post war Germany), Ohno  caused an uproar here on East 4th Street. Within minutes, the Box Office had sold out.

Ohno’s Butoh is the dance which transcends death, just as in Tristan Und Isolde, it is love which transcends death. Kazuo Ohno was Liebestod himself, i.e. an incarnation of the Celtic Idea that ephemeral matters, matter but only on another level. Which level I dare not…

Liebestod is the last aria sung by Isolde, with her Tristan dead on her lap. Half dead, half alive on his stage, my impression is that his solo act was accompanied by a heavy load of ‘entities’.

Seriously. That’s how it was.

I saw him once again at SESC Anchieta, in São Paulo and I was literally carried out of the theater (for, I had fainted). Yes, I must have fainted after having cried a river and because I saw, hovering over his head and all around his contorted body, a mixture of pain and an attitude of a trickster of a boy: I saw the bodies and souls of MY dead loved ones such as Julian Beck, my own father and the likes of Artaud, as well as so many others….

Each one saw his or hers entities through the ritualistic art put on stage by this Japanese master who blended Noh and an the modern art derived from a painful end of a Second World War. Yet, there was something ‘candolmble’ (the Afro-Brazilian religion and ritual), about him. My God! I cannot describe the degree of  how shockingly beautiful and strangely spooky this was. It was, in fact,  far more than that. Ohno was the Japanese version of the old Black voodoo creature. And to think that, still now, on this flight which brought me from London to NY, I was jotting down some thoughts about those entities who have edified the art of our time:

Pina Bausch , Merce Cunningham, Bob Wilson, Philip Glass and Ohno. Strange thoughts went through my mind.

Ohno died exactly 11 months after Pina Bausch.

I am beginning to seriously believe how extraordinary it is how the Gods of the theater drive against the one way system and the currents of those who leave a legacy behind. And a tremendous legacy it is/was. Just as in Beckett’s  “Act without words, 1 and 2”. Kazuo was definitely Beckett’s unwritten “act number 3”. His contorted hands still dig deep into my soul something I am sure I’ll never find. And why won’t I? Because Butoh celebrates the only contract we have with life: death. And Ohno, as a mixture of Rembrandt and Warhol teased the crap out of death, yet moved us to tears with his strange and estranged soul and the soul of theater itself for ever.

Goodbye my loved one.

Who will evoke you?


Gerald Thomas

Ao mexer com nossa alma, Kazuo Ohno sacaneou a morte Artista japonês fazia mistura singular de arte oriunda da dor do pós-guerra somada a um tipo decandomblé

Se você me perguntar qual foi a minha experiência mais mística no teatro em todas essas décadas, afirmo sem hesitar: Kazuo Ohno, que morreu na última semana. Foi aqui em Nova York, no La MaMa, que o recebemos pela primeira vez. Deve ter sido no final dos anos 70 ou dos 80. Alguns anos depois, eu o vi de novo, num beco de Ropongui, em Tóquio, fazendo o ritual da morte, o seu próprio butô (diferente do de Min Tanaka ou do de Sankai Juko). Kazuo incorporava algo: Qual algo? Ah… Quem explica a arte? Quem explica a arte que faz você engolir a sua própria essência e sentir uma dor no peito por dias e dias? Já com 70 e poucos anos, um mulher/homem (em “La Argentina” -versão Dietrich que ele viu certa vez na Alemanha), Ohno provocou tumultos aqui na rua 4, os ingressos esgotaram. O butô de Ohno era a dança que transcendia a morte, como em “Tristão e Isolda” de Wagner. Kazuo era o “Liebestod” [ária final da ópera, onde o amor transcende a morte e vice-versa]. Meio vivo-morto em cena, tínhamos a impressão de que vinha carregado de “entidades”. E vinha mesmo. Quando eu o vi mais uma vez, no Sesc Anchieta, fui carregado pra fora do teatro, desmaiado.

Sim, desmaiei, porque lá, em cima de sua cabeça e ao redor do seu corpo contorcido em dor e molecagem, eu vi os corpos dos “meus” mortos: Julian Beck, meu pai, Artaud e tantos outros. Cada um via várias entidades nesse japonês que fazia uma mistura singular entre uma arte oriunda da dor do pós-guerra e do teatro Nô somado a uma espécie de candomblé. Ohno era a versão japonesa do caboclo véio. Nossa! Não posso dizer que era de arrepiar. Era mais que isso.

E ainda agora, no voo que me trouxe de Londres pra Nova York, eu vinha escrevendo sobre as entidades que compunham a edificação da arte do nosso tempo. Pina Bausch, Merce Cunningham, Bob Wilson, Philip Glass e Kazuo Ohno. Ohno morreu 11 meses depois de Pina. Começo a acreditar que é extraordinário como os deuses do teatro conduzem a mão e contramão do que deixara um legado. Um tremendo legado. Como Beckett em “Ato sem Palavras 1 e 2?, Kazuo era o “Ato sem Palavras número 3?. Suas mãos ainda cavam fundo na alma algo que nunca acharei. E por quê? Porque o butô celebra a morte. Celebra o único contrato que temos em vida: a morte. E Kazuo Ohno foi uma mistura de Rembrandt e Andy Warhol a sacaneá-la mexendo com a nossa alma e a alma da própria história do teatro para sempre. Adeus, querido. Sayonara.