The origin of the word Butoh

This article clearly reveals the meaning of Butoh providing a short genealogy of its transformations from Ankoku Buyo to Butoh.
“The word ‘butoh’, now the accepted name of the genre, originated as ankoku buyo in the early 1960s. “Ankoku” means “utter darkness.” “Buyo,” a generic term for dance, is used in many compounds: for example, gendai buyo, modern dance; and koten buyo, classical dance. Later in the 1960s, ankoku buyo evolved into ankoku buto. The word “buto” is used in compounds such as buto-kai, a European-type ball dance, or shi no buto, the medieval European dance of death. That is, “buto” was used to refer to Western dance forms. However, according to the Japanese dictionary Kojien, buto also means haimu, a specific ceremonial salutation at the imperial court in which a person flings the long sleeves of traditional Japanese dress and stamps the feet (Shinmura 1991:2037). “To” means stamping feet. Although a stamping movement is not typical of butoh, Hijikata created the term “ankoku butoh” to denote a cosmological dance which completely departed from existing dances and explored the darkest side of human nature.
If you wish to read more:
“Hijikata Tatsumi: The Words of Butoh”


Hijikata’s relatively early death, self-mystifying character, and extraordinary works have made him a mythic figure. Recent efforts to reexamine his legacy have begun to expand our understanding of both the man and his work. In November 1998 a week-long symposium about Hijikata was held at the Theatre Tram in Tokyo. Dancers, visual artists, poets, and scholars of various disciplines discussed aspects of Hijikata’s life and career, such as his idiosyncratic use of language and his relationship with classical dance. One night was dedicated to a discussion by non-Japanese butoh dancers. The frank opinions of these dancers from various cultural contexts offered a valuable contrast to the insular tendencies of the butoh world in Japan. The Hijikata Tatsumi Archive was recently opened at Keio gijuku University Art Center in Tokyo, and more sources are becoming publicly accessible, their abundant materials awaiting critical study. We are only just beginning to assess Hijikata, his butoh, and what he was trying to achieve in his life and his work.

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