Devastation and hope in Tadashi Endo’s solo work

After a sold out show and workshop series last year, Tadashi Endo is happy to be back in Chicago. On Saturday, September 17, he opens the Dance Center’s 2016-2017 season with his critically acclaimed Fukushima Mon Amour.

Endo, former student of one of the originators of butoh, Kazuo Ohno, is currently director of the Butoh-Center MAMU and the Butoh-Festivals MAMU, based in Göttingen, Vienna. As he describes his own work, Endo “uses the suggestive power of concentrated movement phrases to explore the closure of life’s cycles.” In Fukushima Mon Amour, Endo explores a cycle that, for many Japanese, is ongoing: that of recovery from immense devastation.

Tsunami wave crashes onto a street in Miyako, Iwate prefecture. (Mainchi Shimbun/Reuters) View the gallery here.

Earthquake. Tsunami. Nuclear meltdown.
At 2:46 PM on Friday, March 11, 2001, a magnitude-9 earthquake shook northeastern Japan. Less than an hour after the Great Tōhoku Earthquake hit the coast of Honshu, Japan’s main island, a series of tsunami waves pummeled the coast. Thirty-foot walls of water tore through across the coast. Protective tsunami seawalls were destroyed. Streets and buildings flooded and collapsed. Entire towns were swept away. The earthquake and tsunami triggered warnings and alerts in 50 countries and territories around the world. The destructive power rippled across the Pacific, causing damage in America, Canada, and the Philippines, among other locations. Waves slammed into Antarctica, breaking off icebergs on this landmass more than 8,000 miles away from Japan. The infrasound rumble from the earthquake could be heard by satellite in space. The tsunami also instigated a nuclear incident at Fukushima Daiichi (“Number One”) plant in northern Japan. Flooding and water damage from the waves disabled plant controls, and Fukushima Daiichi experienced hydrogen explosions and eventual core meltdown. It was the largest nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.

The Tōhoku earthquake was the biggest in Japan’s recorded history, and the fourth biggest quake in the recorded history of the planet. As later reported by NASA, the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology, and other scientific bodies, the earthquake pushed Honshu eight feet across the ocean, shifted the Earth on its axis, and shortened the 24-hour day by 1.8 microseconds.

More than 15,000 people lost their lives.

030816-japan-quake-tsunamiThe economic, political, and social costs of the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdown were enormous. Today, five years after the disaster, Japan continues to grapple with the aftermath, including thousands of aftershocks, ozone-destroying chemicals and gasses along with radioactive run-off, and nearly 60,000 displaced people still living as evacuees. Japan’s economy suffered, with the nation experiencing significant trade deficits. Hobbled by the nuclear incident and subsequent protests by citizens, the nuclear energy-reliant nation has been forced to increase its oil imports. Debris continues to wash up on shores around the world.

Yet despite the horror of the disaster and the subsequent struggles, Japan and her people remain resilient. As observed in a 2013 article from The Brookings Institute:

“The dignity, creativity, and orderly response of the Japanese population to this mega disaster is indeed the best measure of Japan’s potential. And just as a previous natural disaster, the Kobe earthquake of 1995, helped spur the NGO movement in Japan, March 11, 2011 has seen has seen the activation of scores of non-profit groups and the consolidation of a culture of volunteerism.”

Following any natural disaster, the process of reconstruction is inevitably complex, layered, difficult, and heartrending. Tadashi Endo’s butoh homage to the Japanese tragedy speaks to the strength of a nation.

This Saturday, in a one night only performance, Endo will honor the Fukushima disaster with a hauntingly intricate dance form. Through butoh, Endo dances the pain and tragedy experienced by Japan in the wake of the 2011 tsunami and resultant nuclear disaster—and the hope of reconstruction that carried the nation forward. As Endo reflects:

“Japan is a beautiful country. Japan is a fascinating country full of myths.
Japan is the only country that witnessed the atom bomb.
The catastrophe caused lots of terror and grief.
Grief created solidarity that turned people
into the extreme and sensitive Japanese that we know today.”

We hope you will join us for this one night only U.S. premiere, to honor the tragedies of the lives and the land that is Japan. Welcome back to Chicago, Tadashi Endo.


Tadashi Endo | Fukushima Mon Amour
Saturday, September 17, 2016 • 7:30 p.m.
Tickets are $30/$24 for seniors. Purchase online, or call the box office at (312) 369-8330.

This production of Tadashi Endo’s Fukushima Mon Amour is co-produced by Sara Zalek and the Dance Center.