Kentaro Kujirai in GINGAN ARAHABAKI 2

Butoh dancer Kentaro Kujirai portrays his roots in a new solo work

Kentaro Kujirai in GINGAN ARAHABAKI 3
(c) Nanako Usui

After an interval of five years spent in a variety of collaborations with other artists, the renowned butoh dancer Kentaro Kujirai is back with “GINGAN ARAHABAKI,” a new solo work he’s staging at the small but atmospheric Terpsichore theatre in Nakano, Tokyo.

A native of Sendai in northeastern Japan’s Miyagi Prefecture, Kujirai studied butoh in Tokyo under Akira Kasai, the founder of the Tenshikan (Sant’Angelo) company, and now bases himself in both cities.

Kentaro Kujirai in GINGAN ARAHABAKI 4
(c) Nanako Usui

For “GINGAN ARAHABAKI,” however, he turns the focus on his father’s life and that of his father’s father as a means of exploring his own roots and current frame of mind.

In doing so he has drawn inspiration from a memoir his grandfather wrote in later life titled “Ichigakutohei no Hokubu Okinawasen Kaisoroku” (“Recollections of a Student Soldier who Fought in World War II in northern Okinawa”). Although he says the book often makes him shudder with its detailed descriptions, it also clearly reflects his late grandfather’s mild personality despite what he went through.

Previously, Kujirai created a work based on his grandfather’s book that he titled “A Song by Akasha” and performed in Sendai in 2019 with live music, a live chorus and narration.

This time he dances alone in the first half on the theme of his grandfather’s memoirs. Wearing a military-colored tank top and shorts he moves energetically and frantically amid noisy shellburst sounds before he finally breaks apart as a marionette.

In the second half, after a short blackout the scene switches to Kujirai’s life in Sendai now — with him changed into a stylish jumpsuit and stretching out his arms towards the projected moon on the wall. Then, lost in his thoughts about his father, he sometimes enjoys dancing with his shadow cast by the moonlight on the back wall in what may be a metaphor for his best artistic partner, his father TOJU.

In fact Kujirai’s father, who was a painter and great collaborator with his dancer son, passed away a few days after “GINGAN ARAHABAKI” had its world premiere in Sendai on July 9.
Kentaro Kujirai and his fellow butoh dancer Barabbas Okuyama will join the Japan Festival at the Coronet Theatre in London in May 2022.

Kentaro Kujirai in GINGAN RAHABAKI 1
(c) Nanako Usui