Review: Flowers for Kazuo Ohno (and Leonard Cohen)

Flowers for Kazuo Ohno (and Leonard Cohen) 03 The company of Flowers for Kazuo Ohno (and Leonard Cohen). Photo by Carlos Lema Posada.Luminato presents a dance tribute to Kazuo Ohno and Leonard Cohen in Toronto

Luminato presents Flowers for Kazuo Ohno (and Leonard Cohen) which not only pays tribute to Ohno and Cohen, but to all of humanity.

Columbian contemporary dance company Compañía del Cuerpo de Indias provides theatre-goers with an entrancing multicultural experience as it honours Japanese dancer Kazuo Ohno and Canada’s iconic artist Leonard Cohen. Seemingly an unlikely pair, Ohno and Cohen share a common admiration for Andalusian poet and playwright Federico García Lorca.

The audience enters the theatre with a haunting black and white image of Ohno. The stage is set with minimal lighting and minimal set pieces in what feels like an enlarged black box theater. To someone who is unclear of Ohno and his style, this greeting is oddly unsettling.

I find myself transported further into the world of the obscure as masked dancers adorned in black enter the first sequence. The company moves in a unified force as they follow two puppets. Their unnatural, rigid motions seemingly awaken the puppet props to life.

Dancers strategically reveal their masked faces in an act of pride in the next tableau. I found myself in awe of their courage and vulnerability at the reveal. At this powerful moment, I reveled in the uniqueness of each dancers’ facial features. Every costume reveal soon after was done with power.

The line of masculinity or femininity that we often see in western culture is blurred; all dancers wear matching unitards, skirts, or dresses. Perhaps it can be interpreted as a method to pay homage to Ohno, who often wore dresses as a symbol of his connection to his mother. But perhaps it is also a statement of gender as a social construct.

Whereas the majority of the choreography was underscored by Cohen’s music, some choreography was performed sans audio track. Instead, the dancers used a variety of resources as their soundtrack, such as stomping their feet or whispering their voices.

Some of the moments I found most striking were performed in silence coupled with a video projection of Onho; executed on three separate occasions. As the projection played, a singular ballerina glided eerily across the stage in silence adorned with a headdress. Each time, I felt captivated by the dancer’s every move.

Flowers for Kazuo Ohno (and Leonard Cohen) is a fantastic piece that guides audience members to let go of the logical, and enter the world of abstract and obscure. It is a wonderful representation of the unifying force of humanity through means of dance.


  • Flowers for Kazuo Ohno (and Leonard Cohen) is playing within Toronto’s International Arts Festival Luminato at the Bluma Appel Theatre (27 Front Street) from June 19 – 22, 2019
  • Shows run Wednesday to Saturday at 8pm, with a runtime of 90 minutes
  • Ticket prices range from $45 – $115, with student/youth discounts at $30
  • For more details, visit Luminato’s website, or call the box office at 416-368-4849

Photo of the company of Flowers for Kazuo Ohno (and Leonard Cohen) by Carlos Lema Posada.