DRAWING LIFE by fred hatt

2014/04/18

Falling Water

Still from “Awosting”, 2014, video by Mariko Endo and Fred Hatt

Still from “Awosting”, 2014, video by Mariko Endo and Fred Hatt

There is a kind of holy awe in feeling dwarfed by nature, going where our habitual self-importance dissolves in the face of grandeur. We feel ourselves as mere specks in a vastness, and yet to know our minuteness is in itself a kind of expanded consciousness. In our limited everyday sense of ourselves we are great and important, but also limited and mortal. When we are even a little bit aware of the immensity of the universe, we know that we are nothing, but also that in some way we are that vastness, for it has manifested in us in the form of awareness.

Still from “Awosting”, 2014, video by Mariko Endo and Fred Hatt

Still from “Awosting”, 2014, video by Mariko Endo and Fred Hatt

Last year, as the warm weather was just starting to give way to the first chills of autumn, I took a drive up to New York’s Ulster County with my friend the dancer and teacher Mariko Endo. Mariko has a background in butoh, the postwar Japanese performance movement. She wanted to dance under a waterfall. My great friend Alex Kahan, who lives in the area, took us to Awosting Falls in Minnewaska State Park, where we shot this video.

Still from “Awosting”, 2014, video by Mariko Endo and Fred Hatt

Still from “Awosting”, 2014, video by Mariko Endo and Fred Hatt

Awosting Falls is no mighty Niagara or Iguazu or Victoria falls. It’s just one of hundreds of cascades in the ancient, eroded mountains of the Eastern United States. It draws much of its majesty from its natural amphitheater, a nearly perfectly vertical semi-cylindrical backdrop around its rusty-colored plungepool that seems to contain and magnify the roaring cataract. It is a perfect proscenium to make a solo dancer look and feel small.

Still from “Awosting”, 2014, video by Mariko Endo and Fred Hatt

Still from “Awosting”, 2014, video by Mariko Endo and Fred Hatt

Mariko entered upon this stage to feel the frightful power of the water crashing around her, and to channel that power through her body in dance. Both Mariko’s movement and my shooting were improvised. We hadn’t known enough in advance about what the falls would be like to really plan or choreograph something. I had to shoot from a distance and we couldn’t talk to each other over the thunderous waters, so each of us entered into our own experience of responding to the energy of water and stone.

Still from “Awosting”, 2014, video by Mariko Endo and Fred Hatt

Still from “Awosting”, 2014, video by Mariko Endo and Fred Hatt

Mariko and I worked together to edit the video, returning to it several times over several months to try to find some structure. Mariko approaches editing as a kind of choreography, selecting bits of movement and sequencing and manipulating them to create a progression of feelings and transformations.

Still from “Awosting”, 2014, video by Mariko Endo and Fred Hatt

Still from “Awosting”, 2014, video by Mariko Endo and Fred Hatt

When I asked Mariko what the piece was about for her, she gave me this quote from Tatsumi Hijikata (1928-1986), the originator of the butoh movement in dance: “We should be afraid! The reason that we suffer from anxiety is that we are unable to live with our fear. Anxiety is something created by adults. The dancer, through the butoh spirit, confronts the origins of his fears: a dance which crawls towards the bowel of the earth.” Mariko added, “The wind and the sound of massive amount of water falling which occupies my whole body. Speed and movement is the energy itself. When you are there, Nature foces you to face yourself and where you really are. I wanted to make a film which the audience can feel the texture of the rocks and the speed of the water fall through me.

Still from “Awosting”, 2014, video by Mariko Endo and Fred Hatt

Still from “Awosting”, 2014, video by Mariko Endo and Fred Hatt

I hope a little bit of that feeling of being surrounded by overpowering natural forces, and of surrendering to let those forces flow through oneself, is communicated in this brief video piece. We borrowed a piece of music by the great English composer Jocelyn Pook – I also hope this video will turn some people on to her wonderful music.

Still from “Awosting”, 2014, video by Mariko Endo and Fred Hatt

Still from “Awosting”, 2014, video by Mariko Endo and Fred Hatt

If you receive this blog by email, or if you want to watch in HD (strongly recommended), you’ll need to click this link to see the “Awosting” on Vimeo.

Awosting from Fred Hatt on Vimeo.

 

2013/05/26

Life Drawing at ADaPT

 

Sample works by visual artists participating in the ADaPT Festival Life Drawing Score, clockwise from left: Michael Alan, Jillian Bernstein, KIMCHIKIM, Masha Braslavsky, Fred Hatt, Susan M. Berkowitz, IURRO.

Sample works by visual artists participating in the ADaPT Festival Life Drawing Score, clockwise from left: Michael Alan, Jillian Bernstein, KIMCHIKIM, Masha Braslavsky, Fred Hatt, Susan M. Berkowitz, IURRO.

ADaPT (A Dance and Physical Theater) Festival, founded in 2011, hosts performances, master classes, and other events in its home base of Santa Barbara, California, and in locations around the world, including one on May 30, 2013 at CPR (Center for Performance Research) in Brooklyn. Festival director Misa Kelly is a dancer and choreographer with her company ArtBark International, and she’s also a life drawing artist and model – please click that last link to see some of Misa’s wonderful drawings.

Adapt Festival Program Orson, May 30 at CPR, features twelve performances by a diverse artists – the link has a full list and descriptions of the pieces. Misa’s a maximalist, surrounding her performance events with installations, projections and opportunities for audience members to express their own creativity. For this program, she asked me to recruit some visual artists and to act as monitor for a special “Life Drawing Score” in conjunction with the performance program.

Art modeling/life drawing is a form of performance, a creative interaction between models (many of whom are also performers in other contexts) and visual artists. This interaction is rarely seen outside of the small community of artists and models. Artwork may be exhibited, but the art audience may be unaware of the collaborative nature of artists’ work with models. Likewise, the dance and theater audience may not know that the performers’ experience modeling for artists is a vital part of their performance practice. Misa decided this special creative relationship deserved a place in a festival of dance and physical theater.

Misa Kelly, photo by Am Wu

Misa Kelly, photo by Am Wu

Here’s what will happen on May 30:

Invited visual artists will be having a private life drawing session in the performance space starting at 6 pm. I’ll be the session monitor. Our models will be Misa Kelly and one other dancer. (There will be no audience for this, until the last 20 minutes of it.)

At 7:15 the audience is invited to the Pre-Show in the lobby. There will be a video installation, sage smudging, and various activities intended to engage audience members to express their own creativity through writing, drawing, and moving.

At 7:35 the audience members will be allowed into the performance space to witness and/or participate in the last 20 minutes of the life drawing session.

At 8:05 there will be a full program of twelve dance and physical theater performances in the performance space. There are descriptions of all of these pieces here: ADaPT Festival Program Orson.

At the intermission (around 9:00) the audience will return to the lobby to see an informal exhibition of work created during the earlier private life drawing session.

Location: CPR (Center for Performance Research), 361 Manhattan Ave, Brooklyn, NY. Tickets $10 in advance or $15 at the door.

Links for participating artists and models:

IURRO

Jillian Bernstein

KIMCHIKIM

Masha Braslavsky

Michael Alan

Misa Kelly

Susan M. Berkowitz

2012/04/10

Ritual of Enchantment: Human Clay

Claire Elizabeth Barratt in Human Clay, a motion sculpture movement installation by Cilla Vee Life Arts, presented by Chashama, 2004, photo by Fred Hatt

One of the most venerable functions of art is to transform the environment, to create a sacred space or a magical moment, to inspire the imagination or to open the mind to contemplate mysteries.  This may be the impulse behind the painted caves of the Ice Age, and it is why places to pray and places to play are often designed as majestic spaces, or filled with images or music, beautiful light, fine materials, costumed performers, ritualized actions, and sensual delights such as incense and candles.

It is a common conceit of modern society to think we’re past all that, or to segregate such things to churches and carnivals and festivals, to dismiss them as kid stuff or god stuff, therefore not real.  The paradigm for the contemporary art gallery is the industrial space with plain white walls and bright track lighting, the better to display work that is formally reductionist, coldly conceptual, or ironic, and of course, always very, very expensive.

Naturally  there’s a counter-movement.  I’ve always been drawn to alternatives to the white box gallery, and have mostly shown work in unusual venues or as part of collaborative multimedia happenings.  One of the organizers of such events is Claire Elizabeth Barratt.  She’s a dancer, performance artist, and installation artist, but I’d say her real art form is to bring diverse artists together in loose collaborative events that aim to create enchanted spaces.  Under the banner of Cilla Vee – Life Arts, she’s produced countless events in a wide variety of environments.

In June, 2004 and again in August, 2005, I created live ink drawings as part of Human Clay, a production Claire calls a “Motion Sculpture Movement Installation”, melding elements of visual art, dance, and live music, all improvised in the moment.  It was what some people call an “ambient performance.”  A variant on “ambient music“, this term generally describes an event with a designated run time but no beginning, middle or end, so the audience can come and go at will, taking a momentary taste or settling into the experience for as long as they wish.

Human Clay was done in one of the 42nd Street storefront window spaces hosted by the NYC arts organization Chashama.  (I’ve written previously about solo drawing performances I did in Chashama’s windows.)  In this space, people could see the performance through the window from the public sidewalk, or they could come in and sit down on the opposite side of the stage, with the city street as backdrop.  I believe the performance went on for four or five hours each time it was done.

In this post I’m presenting pictures of all the drawings I made during the 2004 and 2005 performances of Human Clay, interspersed with photos of the 2004 performance that I took during breaks from drawing.

Hisayasu Takashio, sculptor, in Human Clay, a motion sculpture movement installation by Cilla Vee Life Arts, presented by Chashama, 2004, photo by Fred Hatt

Claire’s description of Human Clay calls it “a constant shifting of landscapes composed of human, rope and twisted tree branch sculptures. The sculptor fervently constructs, molds and forms these elements in a race against time before they give in to gravity and gradually melt towards the ground.”  The sculptor, shown above, is Brooklyn-based Hisayasu Takashio.

Fred Hatt drawing in Human Clay, a motion sculpture movement installation by Cilla Vee Life Arts, presented by Chashama, 2005, photo by Marc Dale

While the sculptor was moving his dancers and objects into ever-shifting arrangements, I was using them as models for brush sketches.  I had hung long strips of white paper throughout the interior of the space, and over the few hours that the performance went on, I recorded my impressions of the fleeting tableaux with my dancing brush.  As each pose was set, it would only hold for a few seconds before heaviness or the impulse to move caused the fragile structure to collapse, so I had to use my quick-drawing skills.  There’s a shot of me drawing, above, and the finished panel below.  As you can see, the drawings are quite large, so I could move the brush freely, and didn’t have to worry about crowding the paper too quickly.

Drama, left panel, ink drawing by Fred Hatt from Human Clay performance, 2005

Normally, a sculptor’s work is long-lasting, but this sculptor was working with living bodies and transient arrangements.  It was up to me to capture what I could, covering the walls with my linear impressions of the slow, shifting sands of the dance.

Image from Human Clay, a motion sculpture movement installation by Cilla Vee Life Arts, presented by Chashama, 2004, photo by Fred Hatt

The ritual of continuous, slow-paced resculpting was sustained by quiet, trancy music.  Marianne Giosa, a soulful trumpeter, multi-instrumentalist and dancer was performing for the 2004 version.

Drama, right panel, ink drawing by Fred Hatt from Human Clay performance, 2005

The elements the sculptor had to work with were ropes: tough but limp, branches: stiff and serpentine, and living human bodies that could combine all those qualities.

Image from Human Clay, a motion sculpture movement installation by Cilla Vee Life Arts, presented by Chashama, 2004, photo by Fred Hatt

The performances maintained the same pace and substance for the full duration – no development, no narrative.  But when I look at the drawings, I can’t help but see dramatic events.  There’s no clear plotline you can read.  It’s like looking at the illustrations to a story book in a language you don’t understand.  The imagination is stimulated to fill in the blanks.

Youth, 2 panels, ink drawing by Fred Hatt from Human Clay performance, 2004

The dancers were smeared with clay, which gave them a crusty patina like cracked plaster.  Some of Claire’s other Motion Sculpture events are wildly colorful.  This one is austere, but with a strong dose of nature’s chaotic textures.

Image from Human Clay, a motion sculpture movement installation by Cilla Vee Life Arts, presented by Chashama, 2004, photo by Fred Hatt

The sticks and ropes added simple but powerful recurring visual motifs to the ever-changing compositions.  Look at the crossed twisty branches above, and in the drawing below, and in the photo below that.

Altar, ink drawing by Fred Hatt from Human Clay performance, 2005

To me the branches evoke the writhing life force, and when the dancers are crossed and suspended and tangled up, my imagination sees sacrifice and struggle.

Image from Human Clay, a motion sculpture movement installation by Cilla Vee Life Arts, presented by Chashama, 2004, photo by Fred Hatt

I had never met the sculptor before these performances, but Claire must have known his wriggly lines and mine would work in harmony!

Fire, ink drawing by Fred Hatt from Human Clay performance, 2005

Always slow, as if in a trance, there is constant change.  A journey through a forest.

Image from Human Clay, a motion sculpture movement installation by Cilla Vee Life Arts, presented by Chashama, 2004, photo by Fred Hatt

Gestures and attitudes, all the expressions of the human body.

Gesticulate, ink drawing by Fred Hatt from Human Clay performance, 2005

Contact, sensuality, struggle.

Image from Human Clay, a motion sculpture movement installation by Cilla Vee Life Arts, presented by Chashama, 2004, photo by Fred Hatt

Spreading out, rising up, sinking down, curling inward.

Relation, 3 panels, ink drawing by Fred Hatt from Human Clay performance, 2004

Pose of a hero, a warrior.

Image from Human Clay, a motion sculpture movement installation by Cilla Vee Life Arts, presented by Chashama, 2004, photo by Fred Hatt

Strife, stress, conflict.

Hitting, ink drawing by Fred Hatt from Human Clay performance, 2005

Pulling apart and holding together.

Image from Human Clay, a motion sculpture movement installation by Cilla Vee Life Arts, presented by Chashama, 2004, photo by Fred Hatt

Stride, strive, strike.

Arise, ink drawing by Fred Hatt from Human Clay performance, 2005

Angle, angel, anger, danger.

Image from Human Clay, a motion sculpture movement installation by Cilla Vee Life Arts, presented by Chashama, 2004, photo by Fred Hatt

Arise, arouse, arrows, errors.

Victory, 3 panels, ink drawing by Fred Hatt from Human Clay performance, 2004

Breathe, bathe, incline, align.

Image from Human Clay, a motion sculpture movement installation by Cilla Vee Life Arts, presented by Chashama, 2004, photo by Fred Hatt

Allay, ally, alloy.

Dance, ink drawing by Fred Hatt from Human Clay performance, 2005

In balance, imbalance.

Image from Human Clay, a motion sculpture movement installation by Cilla Vee Life Arts, presented by Chashama, 2004, photo by Fred Hatt

Every character finds its extreme expression, and its norm.

Individuation, left panel, ink drawing by Fred Hatt from Human Clay performance, 2005

Keep the clay wet, to keep it supple.

Image from Human Clay, a motion sculpture movement installation by Cilla Vee Life Arts, presented by Chashama, 2004, photo by Fred Hatt

Curl, curve, curse, cure.

Individuation, right panel, ink drawing by Fred Hatt from Human Clay performance, 2005

Everything tends to come to rest.

Image from Human Clay, a motion sculpture movement installation by Cilla Vee Life Arts, presented by Chashama, 2004, photo by Fred Hatt

Every body plays many roles as the endless dance goes on.

Fold, 2 panels, ink drawing by Fred Hatt from Human Clay performance, 2004

We are the stuff of stars and of earth.  We shine and we sink down, and new life is always emerging from death.

Image from Human Clay, a motion sculpture movement installation by Cilla Vee Life Arts, presented by Chashama, 2004, photo by Fred Hatto

This ritual has no story, no structure, no destination.  It goes on and on, and when the time comes, it ends.  In the meantime, it evokes every quality of life, but there is no definitive meaning.  This is my experience of this piece, from my viewpoint as a person who looks and loves and draws.  I’m sure Claire, the sculptor, the dancers, and the musicians all have their own rich and very personal experience of the piece.

Encounter, 2 horizontal panels joined, ink drawing by Fred Hatt from Human Clay performance, 2004

I wonder how the audience experienced it.  I imagine there was quite a range, from the passerby who thinks “Look at the weirdos” to the person who gets sucked into the trance and comes in to sit rapt for an hour or more.  As for me, I want to do more things like this.

Audience on the street watching Human Clay, a motion sculpture movement installation by Cilla Vee Life Arts, presented by Chashama, 2004, photo by Fred Hatt

Here are the credits for the performance:  Human Clay with sculptor Hisayasu Takashio, action gesture drawing by Fred Hatt, sound by Marianne Giosa, Judith Berkson and/or Sabine Arnaud, presented at Chashama 42nd Street Storefront, NYC, June 2004 & August 2005.  Dancers in 2004 (those pictured in these photos) were Claire Elizabeth Barratt, Pedro Jimenez, Jill Frere, and Kazu Kulken.  Dancers in 2005 were Claire Elizabeth Barratt, Maria Pirone, Jill Frere, and Judy Canestrelli.

The drawings from 2004 are sumi ink on paper 36″ wide, varying lengths.  The 2005 drawings are sumi ink on paper 48″ wide, also varying lengths.

See video excerpts from these performances here.

2011/11/12

Fierce Fire

Filed under: New work,Performance,Video — Tags: , , , , — Fred Hatt @ 22:15

 

Still from "Inner Heat", video by Fred Hatt with Corinna Brown

If you emerge from a hot tub or shower into the cold night, you may see rivulets of steam rising from your skin.  If the environment is dark and a light source illuminates the steam from behind, you can see it clearly.  A runner on a chilly morning may also generate steam from the body, but it’s usually difficult to see in daylight.

Still from "Inner Heat", video by Fred Hatt with Corinna Brown

My longtime friend and collaborator, Corinna Hiller Brown, a butoh dancer and movement therapist, had the idea of trying to capture this effect on video, combined with trancelike butoh dance.  On a snowy winter night in 2005, in my studio in Brooklyn, we turned off the heat, opened all the windows and doors, and pulled a box fan out of off-season storage, trying to get the room as cold as possible.  Corinna repeatedly got in and out of a hot shower, so when she entered the chilly studio her skin would steam for a couple of minutes – just enough to get a quick take.  Later that same night, I filmed the snowflakes eddying under the street lamps outside.

There was no way to assemble the fragments of dance into a connected choreography, but the slow downward drift of the snow through shifting currents of air worked well as a transitional element, echoing in reverse the movement of the glowing steam curling up from the warm skin.  The first, simple edit of this material was used as a projection element with “My Love Bleeds Fire”, a choreographed piece that Corinna premiered at the Cool New York Dance Festival at White Wave.

Still from "Inner Heat", video by Fred Hatt with Corinna Brown

Seven years later, I’ve finally completed a version of the video that I feel stands alone as a piece of poetic cinema.  For the soundtrack, multi-instrumentalist Gregory Reynolds created a jangly droning sound with swelling bass notes, which I mixed with recordings I’d made of ocean surf and rain.

Still from "Inner Heat", video by Fred Hatt with Corinna Brown

For me, the film is a vision of the warmth of life in the cold world.  I described it thus:  “The body is a slow flame, a campfire in the snow, a star in the vastness of space, a pulsing heart in the ocean.”  Every living being is a kind of fire.  Metabolism is combustion.  Life force is like a flame, cohering as long as it consumes experience, adhering to the body as a candle flame clings to its wick.  The heart and mind of a sentient being give warmth and light into the world.

Still from "Inner Heat", video by Fred Hatt with Corinna Brown

The title, “Inner Heat”, refers to a traditional Tibetan meditation practice called tummo.  A combination of breathing exercises and highly focused visualizations can produce enough heat in the body to survive in the snows of the Himalayas.  This is more than just legendary tantric magic, as Harvard researchers have documented the ability of experienced tummo practitioners to produce striking changes in body heat and other supposedly autonomic bodily functions.

Still from "Inner Heat", video by Fred Hatt with Corinna Brown

I suggest viewing this video as a meditation.  Give yourself over to the waves of slow movement and feel the warmth generating within your own belly and heart, and be a source of light in the darkness.  The video is embedded below (except in the email subscription version of the blog), or click the link to see “Inner Heat” on my Vimeo page.

2010/06/06

Ohno: Oh Yes

Filed under: Others' work,Performance — Tags: , , , , , — Fred Hatt @ 23:47

Kazuo Ohno, photo by Guido Harari, date unknown

Kazuo Ohno, a seminal figure in the butoh dance movement and one of the great creative spirits of our time, passed away June 1, 2010, at the age of 103.

I saw Ohno perform in 1996 at the Japan Society in New York.  In an essay posted on my first website, I wrote, ” I will never forget seeing Kazuo Ohno dance at the age of 90, light as a feather, radiating love, a whole audience embraced in his heart.  Love was a palpable force in his performance.”  I have never seen another live artist who created such an aura.  I felt that the hearts of those sitting around me in the auditorium were opening up, and that a kind of love filled with both sadness and joy was circulating through the theater.

The soulful singer Antony Hegarty of Antony and the Johnsons, whose album The Crying Light is dedicated to Ohno, said, “In performance I watched him cast a circle of light upon the stage, and step into that circle, and reveal the dreams and reveries of his heart. He seemed to dance in the eye of something mysterious and creative; with every gesture he embodied the child and the feminine divine.”

The arc of Ohno’s career was far from the norm.  Coming from a fisherman’s family in Japan’s far north, he attended an athletic college.  As a student he saw an electrifying performance by the dancer Antonia Mercé, known as “La Argentina“.  Deeply moved, Ohno knew he had found his muse, but he had at the time no dance training, and it would take him many years to be able to pay tribute to her with his own performance.  He was drafted into the army and spent nine years at the front.  He presented his first public dance performance at the age of 43.

In the 1950′s and 1960′s, Ohno was a major collaborator of avant-garde performance artist and choreographer Tatsumi Hijikata.  Hijikata’s work evolved from raw, radical provocation to a sophisticated choreographic vocabulary based not on external forms but on internal images and sensations.

In 1977, fifty years after the encounter with his muse, Ohno created the solo performance “Admiring La Argentina“, directed by Hijikata.  This dance moved audiences around the world, and suddenly in his seventies Ohno had a new career as a solo performer and a new status as a master of soul expression.

Japanese Poster for "Admiring La Argentina", 1977, photographer unknown

As a dancer, Ohno’s approach was to embody the essence of human feelings, not to act out a story or explore a concept.  When he was interviewed at the Japan Society in 1996, in connection with the performance I saw, he was asked what kind of response he hopes to get from the audience.  He said the thing he doesn’t like to hear from an audience member is that they “got it”.  “How could they ‘get it’?” he asked, “I don’t get it.”

There’s a description of a class taught by Ohno at his studio in the 1988 book Butoh:  Shades of Darkness, by Jean Viala and Nourit Masson-Sekine:  “[Ohno] doesn’t ‘teach’.  He nourishes; he guides; he provokes; he inspires. . . He assigns a subject for improvisation.  The ‘dead body’ is a theme he often suggests.  ‘What could be the life of that which is dead?  It is this impossibility which we must create.’  He explains that for his dance, we must not try to control the body, but to let the soul breathe life into the flesh.  He adds:  ‘Be free!  Let go!’  Being free is not doing what we want or what we think.  On the contrary, it means being liberated from thought and will.  It means allowing life to blossom within.” (p. 55)

Kazuo Ohno, photo by Ethan Hoffman, p. 46 from "Butoh: Dance of the Dark Soul"

The 1987 photography book (in which the image above appears) Butoh: Dance of the Dark Soul includes these extracts from Ohno’s writing, “The Dead Begin to Run”:  “Superimposed on the story of the cosmos, man’s story unfolds.  Within this cosmological superimposition emerges the path that leads from birth through maturity to death.  The Butoh costume is like throwing the cosmos onto one’s shoulders.  And for Butoh, while the costume covers the body, it is the body that is the costume of the soul.

“A fetus walked along a snow-covered path.  It cleared a path by spreading its clothes upon the snow after removing them one by one as in a secret cosmic ceremony.  Then it peeled off its skin and laid that upon the path.  A whirlwind of snow surrounded it, but the fetus continued, wrapped in this whirlwind.  The white bones danced, enveloped by an immaculate cloak.  This dance of the fetus, which moved along as if carried by the whirlwind of snow, seemed to be transparent.

“In life there is, without a doubt, something beyond the brashness of youth which bursts like summer light.  There is something between life and death.  This part of ourselves is like the wreck of an abandoned car; if we fix it, it could start up again.” (p. 36)

Kazuo Ohno in "The Dead Sea", photo by Nourit Masson-Sekine, 1985. “The dead start running…” p. 51 from "Butoh: Shades of Darkness"

Perhaps Ohno had to wait for the ravages of age before his body could express this transcendence.  I see many performances by young dancers with powerful, trained bodies.  But to see Ohno’s small, frail and aged body move was to see divine grace manifesting in the only way it can, through mortal, vulnerable, transient living matter.

From a young age, Ohno had been devoted to the Christian faith.  While his beliefs and their part in his art are barely discussed in any writing I have read by or about Ohno, I see in his work an expression of the Christian theme of divine cosmic spirit entering into bodily form to experience passion, love, sacrifice, suffering and death.  This is not just the story of Jesus, as Ohno shows us, but the story of all embodied creatures.  And this embodiment is not, as some would have it, the debasement of the spirit, but its exaltation.

 

The video above, showing Ohno improvising in his studio, is dated 2000, but I don’t know the source.  If anyone can identify what this is from, please let me know so I can credit it properly.  The images used in this post were all found on the web, and clicking on the pictures links back to their sources.  Where the scans I found on the web match illustrations in books I own, I have also noted where they appear in those printed sources in the captions.

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