Choy Ka Fai



Artist Talk: “How Does a Ghost Choreograph?”

Choy Ka Fai investigates the heritage of Butoh, inquiring its relevance and potentiality. Since the spread of Butoh to Europe in the 1978, Butoh has expanded into various forms of cultural assimilations, spiritual cultivation and performative exorcism.

The lecture will trace the research process and the making of Unbearable Darkness – a paranormal dance experience by Choy Ka Fai. The performance speculates on the possible afterlives of its founder — Tatsumi Hijikata, interviewing and inviting his spirit to collaborate for a new dance creation.

Ka Fai proposed the idea of a post-human choreography and questions what is humanly impossible and ghostly possible? How does the digital, the virtual, the immaterial or non-human expressions push us to rethink and expand the notion of choreography? What are the technological potentials of dancing with the spirit of the Butoh master?

The Spirit of Tatsiumi Hijikata

Tatsumi Hijikata (9 Mar 1928 – 21 Jan 1986) was a Japanese Choreographer, and a founder of Butoh. Butoh arose in Japan at the end of the 1950s encompassing a diverse range of techniques including dance, performance, theatre, and movement. Hijikata would often refer to his form of physical expression as ankoku butō (“dance of darkness”).

Choy Ka Fai invoked Hijikata’s Spirit on his 31st death anniversary in 2017 at his tomb memorial to reignite hope for our choreographic futures. His spirit is now based in Ito city on the eastern shore of Izu Peninsula in Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan.

Choy Ka Fai in Rehearsal for ‘Unbearable Darkness’

This short excerpt of rehearsal footage taken during Performance Space’s 2019 Liveworks Festival offers a glimpse into how Choy Ka Fai translates the principles he refers to in his talk, “How Does A Ghost Choreograph” to the rehearsal studio and provides some insights into the choreographer’s process.


  • Concept, Documentary and Direction – Choy Ka Fai
  • Choreographic Presence and Paranormal Performance – Tatsumi Hijikata
  • Dramaturgy – Tang Fu Kuen
  • Dance Engineering, Motion Capture and Performance – Neji Pijin
  • Shaman Understudy and Performance,Costume Design – Rie Usui
  • Research, Vocal and Translation – Tomoko Inoue
  • Visual Design and Technology – Brandon Tay
  • Music – Raffael Seyfried
  • Lighting Design- Ray Tseng
  • Technical Management Yap Seok Hui / ARTFACTORY
  • Light Engineering Stev.e Kwek / ARTFACTORY
  • Company Manager – Mara Nedelcu
  • Rehearsal Video – Boaz Nothman


UnBearable Darkness is co-produced by Kyoto Experiment and tanzhaus nrw as part of MOCCA – a project by Hochschule Düsseldorf, LAVAlabs, Velamed GmbH and tanzhaus nrw, supported by EFRE.

With support from Kunststiftung NRW, NATIONALES PERFORMANCE NETZ Coproduction Fund for Dance, which is funded by the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media.

The research is supported by TPAM – Performing Arts Meeting in Yokohama, The Saison Foundation, The Japan Foundation Asia Center and Hijikata Tatsumi Archive at Keio University Art Center.


Choy Ka Fai

Choy Ka Fai is a Berlin-based Singaporean artist. His multidisciplinary art practice situates itself at the intersection of dance, media art and performance. At the heart of his research is a continuous exploration of the metaphysics of the human body. Through research expeditions, pseudo-scientific experiments and documentary performances, Ka Fai appropriates
technologies and narratives to imagine new futures of the human body.

Ka Fai’s projects have been presented in major institutions and festivals worldwide, including Sadler’s Wells (London, UK), ImPulsTanz Festival (Vienna, Austria) and Tanz Im August (Berlin, Germany). He was the resident artist at tanzhaus nrw in Düsseldorf (2017–2019) and Künstlerhaus Bethanien in Berlin (2014-15). Ka Fai graduated with a M.A. in Design Interaction from the Royal College of Art, London, United Kingdom.

Image credit: Choy Ka Fai / Prototyping Hijikata

Share This