The first time I met Ko, or rather, the first time I saw Ko was in June 25, 2003. Back in Paris after 2 years in Japan for my studies, I had decided to attend a Butoh festival at Bertin Poirée cultural center: on a narrow stage in the basement, Ko was performing a fierce improvisation. I will never forget the intensity of that performance. Since I did not find the courage to talk to Ko at the time, I cannot say I officially met him that day, but deep inside I knew that this was a very important encounter.
Three years later in the Fall of 2006, Emmanuelle Huynh, the director of the National Contemporary Dance Center of Angers, asked me if I could be a translator for a workshop. I asked her who would give the workshop. She said: Ko Murobushi. My intuition from 3 years before was not wrong: something was bonding me to Ko.
At last, I was officially meeting Ko. At the beginning I was concentrating solely on the translation of the workshop, but as we became friends with Ko, I also started telling him about my film work. One day, as we were sitting at a terrace in Angers after the workshop, Ko, beer and cigarette in hand, said to me: ‘Hey let's make a film together! But not a weird, short cheap movie! Let's take 10 years to make that film! My last ten years...’ I laughed. At that time, Ko was 59 years old, and in much better shape than I was at 25, so I was convinced that if I were to shoot Ko to the end of his life, the film would never be over within 10 years. But I thought that even if Ko was to live as long as Kazuo Ohno, who had just turned a-hundred years old at that time, and that I had to film Ko for another 40 years, that would be fine with me.
From 2006 on, my film with Ko, along with the countdown of his supposed ‘last ten years’ began. Every two years, in 2006, 2008, 2010 and 2012, Ko’s 2-month workshops in Angers gave me the opportunity to film Ko. In between, in 2007, 2009, 2011 and 2013, we would meet with Ko in Marrakech, Paris, Beppu, Dewa Mountains, or Azerbaijan, to go on with the film.
Every year, I would make fun of Ko’s 10-year countdown : ‘Ko, be careful ! Only 5 years left ! Now only 3 ! Time’s almost up !’ We would both laugh a lot about it. There was only one time in 2012 when I got worried about Ko’s health, but after a quick recovery, Ko went on traveling around the world to give his performances and workshops.
One of those trips to South America would be his last one.
Ten years after our talk in Angers. Just the thought of it makes me shiver.
Looking back, I feel blessed that I had such a friendship with Ko. Apart from the deep respect I had for the exceptional artist that he was, what hurts me the most now is the loss of the friend that I truly loved. Rather than expressing that love with words though, I will convey it through my film of Ko’s last ten years.