This study examines the revolution of ideas surrounding the body in 1950s Japan from the perspective of two women dancers, Noh dancer Tsumura Kimiko (1902–74) and butoh dancer Motofuji Akiko (1928–2003). By contrasting one mid-twentieth-century view—that the postwar era offered a chance to “liberate” individual bodies—with the backdrop of continued control over bodies exercised by large institutions, I first show that this perceived rupture was not as stark as it initially appears. Moreover, I show how Tsumura and Motofuji rejected popular ideas about the body's purpose to forge their own. This allowed them to critique and confront the issues that popular views presented, particularly for disabled or gendered bodies. These issues involved increasing urbanization and the treatment of bodies based upon their desirability. This article argues that Tsumura's and Motofuji's conceptions of “body” challenged gender norms and presented new ideas about how to live.

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