Australia’s ‘high priestess of Butoh’ invokes ancient feminine power with epic new show

—Buried TeaBowl – OKUNI opens Friday 6 May 2022, BLACKCAT Gallery, Fitzroy

*** TICKETS SELLING FAST *** only five shows to go

“… an intimate and stirring passage through time, ritual, the past and the present… a profoundly moving awakening.”

Myron My,

Melbourne performance legend and Australia’s high priestess of Japanese Butoh dance, Yumi Umiumare, returns with a new solo performance and gallery installation featuring her signature juxtaposing of tradition and counter-culture.
Opening Friday 6 May at Fitzroy’s BLACKCAT Gallery, Buried TeaBowl – OKUNI is an intimate and epic solo performance installation bringing together dance, text, song and tea ceremony with stunning film footage. The work is inspired by radical Japanese female dancer and shaman Okuni, who initiated Kabuki theatre in the early 1600s.
Undisputedly at the height of her creative powers, Umiumare pays homage to Okuni through this work, using the tea bowl as a metaphor for long-buried sacred female power. Through the 450-years-old ritual of Japanese tea ceremony, she excavates ancient stories and channels the multi-faceted character of the complex, powerful yet fragile Okuni, to reawaken her spirit.
In addition to the nine performances, Buried TeaBowl – OKUNI will involve an immersive gallery experience. The performance space will be open during the Gallery’s opening hours of 11am to 5pm Wednesday through Sunday, and include installations, a contemporary Japanese tearoom, digital works, and soundscapes. Umiumare will also create pop-up tea ceremony spaces.
Buried TeaBowl – OKUNI marks Umiumare’s long-awaited return to solo performance. Since moving to Australia in 1993, she has emerged as a leading force in the avant-garde dance world, spearheading the iconoclastic ButohOUT! festival as well as being in demand as a director and performance artist nationally and internationally. In 2018 the Green Room Awards Association awarded Umiumare the Geoffrey Milne Award for Contemporary and Experimental Performance, in recognition of her significant contribution to Melbourne performance.

Buried TeaBowl – Okuni
Who : Yumi Umiumare, solo performance, installation, and tea ceremony
Where : BLACKCAT Gallery, 420 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy
When : Thursday 5 May through Sunday 15 May (Sundays 6:00pm, Wed—Sat nights 8:00pm) (see below for full details); show duration approx. 65 minutes
Cost : $35 / $25 / Superiori-TEA $50 including a drink on arrival.
Booking URL:

Coming up this week in May:
11 Wed 8pm
12 Thur 8pm
13 Fri 8pm
14 Sat 8pm
15 Sun 6pm

During the performance season, the installation is open daily from 11am-5pm. Tea ceremonies and other events will be held during gallery hours.

Creator/Performer: Yumi Umiumare
Cinematographer/ Editor: Takeshi Kondo 
Composer/ Sound Designer: Dan West 
Lighting designer: Emma Lockhart-Wilson 
Dramaturg/ Maude: Davey
Provocateur: Moira Finucane 
Producer: Kath Papas Productions
Photographer: Vikk Shayen 
Graphic design: Mariko Naito 
Calligraphy: Hisako Tsuchiya 
Publicity: Diana Wolfe, Wolfe Words

This season is supported by Besen Family Foundation and BLACKCAT Gallery. The creative development (2021) of the work was supported by the Australia Council for the Arts, City of Darebin and Abbotsford Convent Foundation.


“The final image is of a tea bowl mended with traditional gold joinery: a neat symbol for the way that ritual can restore a broken soul. The many fragments of this show do not adhere with the same smoothness… but there’s much here that glisters all the same.”—Andrew Fuhrmann, The Age

“Umiumare’s homage to Okuni, the power of ritual and female strength is a captivating work. It is fitting that this performance takes place in a gallery as what we witness often feel like art coming to life. She may be attempting to awaken the spirit of Okuni in Buried TeaBowl – Okuni, but through her generous guidance, Umiumare helps free the spirit inside all of us and provide us with a profoundly moving awakening.”—Myron My,

Butoh—the dance world’s punk rock—
is here to disrupt your preconceptions of dance

Tickets are now on sale for the eagerly-awaited 2019 ButohOUT! Festival—Forbidden Laughter. Thanks to pioneering Japanese-Australian performance artists Yumi Umiumare and Takashi Takiguchi, Melburnians have the chance to experience this unique and captivating dance form. Incorporating elements of cabaret, Bouffon, burlesque and visual installations, Forbidden Laughter is created by Yumi Umiumare along with award-winning performer Maude Davey, and the unstoppable force of WEAVE Movement Theatre, devious duo Willow J Conway and Zya Kane, and the Butoh OUT! Ensemble.

About Butoh
Australia’s love for dance shows no sign of waning and we’ve demonstrated our eagerness to embrace genres from around the world. We lap up the televised dance shows, from Dancing With The Stars to So, You Think You Can Dance. And on any night of the week, we can head to a class and kick up our heels in the style of our choice, whether it’s rock-and-roll, Latin, Irish, tap, line dancing, clogging and more. So when you think of imported dance styles, Butoh probably won’t spring to mind… and yet this Japanese-born performance medium offers us the chance to immerse ourselves in a fascinating, hitherto unexplored dance form that’s as revolutionary and subversive to dance as punk rock was to popular music.
Butoh, the so-called Dance of Darkness, emerged out of post-WWII Japan as a rebellious and anti-establishment reaction to the country’s social turmoil. Butoh’s crude physical gestures and ‘natural’ movements rejected traditional Japanese aesthetics of refinement and understatement, and eschewed what creators Hijikata Tatsumi and Ohno Kazuo saw as the imitation of Western dance styles. Butoh dancers were commonly covered in white full body paint, near-naked with shaved heads, moving excruciatingly slowly with clawed hands and rolled-up eyes, silently screaming.
The first Butoh performance at a Japanese dance festival in 1959—which incorporated a live chicken—shocked audiences and not only saw Hijikata banned from the festival, but established him as a cultural iconoclast.

ButohOUT! 2019—Forbidden Laughter
Now in its third year, ButohOUT! challenges the perception of Butoh as dark and grotesque by combining the dancing with elements of cabaret, Bouffon, burlesque, physical theatre and visual installations. Celebrating the unique and powerful performance medium of Butoh, Forbidden Laughter invites audiences into surreal narratives through a bizarre and mysterious domesticated installation within the rustic industrial school of Abbotsford Convent.
Forbidden Laughter is created and conceived by leading Butoh artist Yumi Umiumare in collaboration with Takashi, along with award-winning performance artist, Maude Davey and the unstoppable force of WEAVE Movement Theatre, devious duo Willow J Conway and Zya Kane and the Butoh OUT! Ensemble. Strange and absurd stories are woven between worlds that are mythically sacred and divinely carnal; the sensibilities of the East and West collide in a contemporary setting designed by the internationally acclaimed Thai sculptor, Pimpisa Tinpalit.
The two-month Festival program includes four public workshops held in March and April, two weeks of performances from Thursday 2 May—Sunday 12 May, and discussion groups. Facilitated by professional award-winning performance and visual artists and theatre-makers, the workshops are designed to cater for all age groups and stages of accomplishment including absolute beginners through to dance professionals, making Butoh accessible and engaging for all. The performance season will involve workshop participants (including dancers from the renowned WEAVE Movement Theatre) as well as the workshop leaders.

Creative team: Artistic director Yumi Umiumare, Producer Takashi Takiguchi, Dramaturg Maude Davey, Visual artist Pimpisa Tinpalit. ButohOUT! is being held in partnership with Abbotsford Convent and is supported by the Victorian Government through Creative Victoria; Arts Access Victoria; and WEAVE Movement Theatre.

Media release written by Diana Wolfe and Gianna Huesch