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Friday, Jan. 11, 2008

Famed Japanese dancer branches into mime

In 1993, the legendary choreographer and radical ballet master Maurice Bejart created — especially for the Tokyo Ballet Company — a work based on the life of doomed author Yukio Mishima, called "M." For the main role of St. Sebastian, the late, great French artist who died last November selected 21-year-old Yasuyuki Shuto, a soaring talent at the time who has ever since been in the top rank of the international ballet world. He has also danced for such other Western trailblazers as the Czech choreographer Jiri Kylian, German-based American John Neumeier and Matthew Bourne — with whose hugely popular English AMP company he became the only Asian to date to be awarded a leading role, as the main male swan in Bourne's all-male "Swan Lake" in 2002 and '03.

In recent years, Shuto has spread his wings, acting in Japan in both a straight play and a movie, and also opening his own dance studio in Tokyo, where he teaches children and runs workshops.

Now he is moving from the unspoken expression of dance into the mysterious world of mime, along with Japan's top dancer in that genre, Shuji Onodera. Since recently returning from a yearlong government-sponsored study program in Paris, Onodera has created the dance piece "Kuhaku ni Ochita Otoko (A Man Fallen Into a Void)" especially to showcase Shuto as S, a character who, after meeting a tall stranger one day, enters a dream reality in which he feels he is being chased by someone and hunted down.

Is he deluded, or is all this real? Find out as Onodera and the three other renowned cast members play out this memorable mime-suspense dance before your eyes in what is, by local standards, a prodigiously long six-week run.

"Kuhaku ni Ochita Otoko" runs till Feb. 28 at the Benisan Pit Theatre, a 5-minute walk from Morishita Station on the Oedo and Toei Shinjuku subway lines, or an 8-minute walk from JR Ryogoku Station. Tickets are ¥6,500. For more details, call Rakuten Enterprises at (03) 6387-0140 or visit ticket.rakuten.co.jp

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