The Avant-Garde Gather for Requiem in Juksan

Article excerpt

``You see a creature like that only once in a thousand years if you're lucky. He has to be inhuman to dance like he has the dead on his back. He makes it blissful to be possessed by the dead while alive,'' said a spectator, then rushed away to see if he could get a hold of the dancer Kazuo Ohno, 93, who was already dancing away into the crowd after a spontaneous performance during a brief press conference.

Ohno, the world-famous father of Japanese butoh, a cross between traditional Japanese dance, pantomime and modern ballet, has made it out to Korea despite his old age. He will participate in the Fifth Juksan International Arts Festival this year along with leading avant-garde artists from all over the world.

``My son has not let me perform outside Japan for several years now because I am too old, but I have come to perform in Korea because it is a quiet country,'' Ohno said at the Japanese cultural center just prior to going down to Juksan.

The outdoor festival opened Wednesday down in Juksan, southern Kyonggi-do with an invitation-only opening program starring Korean dance group Simon, live painter Nobuhiko Utsumi, and music performer Michael Vetter in addition to Ohno.

These leaders of the 20th century Asian avant-garde are addressing the theme ``Requiem for the 20th century'' in an ``encounter between nature and human beings through art'' at the Laughing Stone outdoor theater on Laughing Stone hill.

Ohno's presence is significant at this year's festival, because for the Japanese artist, butoh, originally called `Ankoku Butoh, the Dance of Utter Darkness,' links together death and life and transforms them into a single entity of pleasure. This makes him a joyful artistic medium between the past and future, or any two forces that threaten to annihilate each other.

Through Sunday, June 13, he will be there for the workshop and taichi sessions slated to start off each day, and will also lead some of the butoh, dance and music workshops until 1:30 p.m. Events are held in the evenings until 9 p.m.

``This daily studying of the soul, is this the beginning of the journey?'' was Ohno's message on the occasion of the 1998 International Dance Day. ``I sit bewildered in the playground of the dead. …