Maureen Fleming

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Maureen Fleming (born on a United States Navy base near Yokohama, Japan, circa 1954) is an American dancer, performance artist, and choreographer from New York City. She studied butoh dance and is known for her meditative, dreamlike [1] solo dances, which include elements of contortion, and in which she often performs unclothed (sometimes with her body painted white). The New Yorker magazine has called her "perhaps the foremost American practitioner of Butoh."[2]

Early life[edit]

She was born in Japan, the daughter of a United States Navy lieutenant[3] who was part of the Occupation of Japan, and grew up in Yokohama.[4] She was injured in an automobile accident at the age of two, following which she lost the disc between her fourth and fifth vertebrae. Only learning of this accident many years later, she believes this experience to have shaped her career in dance, particularly her affinity for moving her body in a slow, deliberate fashion. She moved with her parents to the United States when she was three years old, and began dancing at approximately age seven.

Dance studies and first exposure to butoh[edit]

Fleming studied ballet with Cecchetti method master Margaret Craske (1892–1990), and performed briefly with several New York City-based dance companies. She was first exposed to butoh in 1984 when she met butoh dancer Min Tanaka in New York City, joining his company, Maijuku, for a time. Following this, she studied butoh in Japan with Tanaka, and later with one of the art form's founders, Kazuo Ohno, with whom she remains in contact.

Artistic outlook and process of creation[edit]

Fleming has stated that she attempts to create archetypes in her dances, and believes the female nude to be a universal artistic image.[citation needed] She has stated that "the flesh is the costume of the soul."

About her work, she has said the following:

Through my art, my goal is to reveal the transcendent through images, which focus on the human body as a vehicle of transformation. I am specifically defining a universal art which touches the evolutionary traces embedded in human experience and transcends the limits of nationality and gender placed on us all, with the aim of discovering what is truly universal about being human.

[citation needed]

She has stated that it often takes her ten years to create a new dance.[citation needed]

Works and performances[edit]

Fleming has performed in North America, Europe, and Asia, and collaborated in her multimedia works with playwright David Henry Hwang, composer Philip Glass, photographer Lois Greenfield, and ikebana artist Gaho Taniguchi.[5] She has toured with Min Tanaka,[citation needed] as well as Yoshito Ohno (the son of Kazuo Ohno), and Bruce Brubaker.[6] She has also performed with the dancer Jean Erdman, and knew her husband, Joseph Campbell.[citation needed]

She also directs the Maureen Fleming Company, and has created several evening-length works, among which Eros is the best known. Her first major work, Axis Mundi, was premiered in 1989 at the La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club in Manhattan.


She has taught at the Juilliard School and the New York University Tisch School of the Arts.


She has won a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.[citation needed]


External links[edit]