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Kentaro Kujirai: U-Bu-Su-Na

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NORTHERN JAPAN – NATIVE STORIES – GODS OF THE BOUNDARIES

Award-winning choreographer Kentaro Kujirai creates a new Butoh piece using his distinctive hyper-expressive choreography. U-BU-SU-NA, is an old Japanese word meaning “the mystical divine power that protects the land where people were born and raised, and those who live there”.

Kujirai here creates something remarkable, arising from the boundary between urbanism and the spirit world. Using grotesque creatures and images that were erased from official histories, he also digs out hidden facets of ancient gods in the marginalised Tohoku region of northeast Japan. Kujirai casts light on the shadowy culture of discrimination against certain people in the Sendai area of Tohoku where he was born and raised, asking just what lost history can teach us.

Butoh or the ‘Dance of Darkness’ is an idiosyncratic and physically demanding dance practice which breaks from more traditional forms to explore taboo topics. A specialised art form which takes dancers years to master, Butoh mixes the traditional with the contemporary to create a potent and compelling experience.

U-BU-SU-NA was created in collaboration with dramaturg Shuri Kido, an award-winning poet whose Names and Rivers collection was selected as one of The Washington Post’s best five poetry books in 2022, as well as leading dance researcher and critic Yurika Kuremiya. Kujirai again turns to the internationally acclaimed FUJIIIIIIIIIIIITA for the music — as he did for A Hum San Sui, his last appearance at The Coronet. He performs with dancers Makoto Sadakata and Izumi Noguchi, who both studied under the Butoh master Akira Kasai and were members of his Tenshikan troupe along with Kujirai.  

U-BU-SU-NA is volume 1 in Kujirai’s BUTOH series: To the Light of Taxidermy. a series of pieces related to work by the founders of Butoh, Tatsumi Hijikata and Kazuo Ohno.

 

Choreography
Kentaro Kujirai

Dramaturg
Shuri Kido

Critical Collaborator
Yurika Kuremiya

Dancers
Kentaro Kujirai, Makoto Sadakata, Izumi Noguchi, Hirohisa Kanamori

Music
FUJIIIIIIIIIIIITA, APE TOPE

Lighting Design
Kazuya Yoshida

Costume Design
KMRii, C.R.O.W design lab.

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Kentaro Kujirai
Dancer/Choreographer/Eurythmist

Kentaro Kujirai was born in 1980 in Sendai, a city in Miyagi Prefecture, northeastern Honshu. He studied in Tokyo under the butoh master Akira Kasai, and is active in Sendai and Tokyo and also overseas.

As a performance artist he is intent on exploring boundaries between the urban space he now inhabits and the age-old michinoku culture of the area where he grew up — and strives to express those boundaries with his body movements in the context of butoh.

His latest work portrays that through its title, “Urbanism and U-BU-SU-NA,” in which U-BU-SU-NA refers to the mystical michinoku power that protects the land where people were born and raised, and those who live there. Meanwhile, even though they defy being categorized as butoh or eurythmy, some of Kujirai’s other original dance works, such as “A Hum San Sui” and “Gingan Arahabaki”, have been performed nationally and internationally to huge acclaim.

In addition, Kujirai is active in theatre, movies and as a model, and he has collaborated with other artists including poets, photographers, musicians, fashion designers, painters and choirs. He also ran the dance troupe Corvus with Makoto Sadakata from 2010–22, but now has his own Kentaro Kujirai Konpeito company and is involved in the WEU (World’s End Underground) and Eureka projects. He is also a lecturer in Physical Expression at Setagaya Art Museum College in Tokyo.

In 2018, Kujirai won the 50th Newcomer Award of the Dance Critics Society of Japan, and in 2019 he was given the Miyagi Prefecture Art Award of Dance.