Hijikata Tatsumi (1928–1986) By Candelario, Rosemary
Hijikata Tatsumi is considered to be the founder of butoh, though titles such as instigator or ringmaster may be more appropriate. Hijikata premiered his first choreography in 1959, an adaptation of Mishima Yukio’s 1952 homoerotic novel Kinjiki (Forbidden Colors). Reaction to the then shocking depiction of sodomy led Hijikata and a number of his colleagues to split from the All Japan Art Dance Association in what would seem to be a classic break of the postmoderns from the moderns. However, as Hijikata’s work developed from a series of happening-like “Dance Experiences” in the 1960s into carefully choreographed group works in the 1970s and 1980s, his dances exhibited hallmarks of Japanese surrealism (prewar and postwar), the second Japanese avant-garde, and modernism, often all at once. His work fragmented meaning—initially across writing, visual arts, and performing bodies, and later across different parts of his dancers’ bodies—and then layered the fragments one on top of another. Hijikata choreographed for individuals (e.g. Ashikawa Yoko, Kobayashi Saga, Tanaka Min) and groups (Ankoku buyō-ha, Hangi daitō kan, Genjûsha, and Hakutōbō), as well as directed dances for Ohno Kazuo. Hijikata also engaged seriously in writing as an artistic practice—not to explicate or supplement his dances, but as a parallel endeavor. His surrealist texts and scrapbooks are now considered to be part of his artistic achievements.