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Thursday, Oct. 12, 2006
A triple threat in contemporary dance
Special to The Japan Times
In recent years, the contemporary dance scene in Japan has grown both in audience size and in the diversity of high-quality, small dance companies. Thirty-one year-old Jo Kanamori, artistic director at the Niigata Ryutopia arts center, is widely considered a trigger for the movement. Kanamori's dance company, Noism -- which means "no restrictions" -- is starting a nationwide tour with "Triple Vision," a three-act program that follows last year's acclaimed trilogy, "Triple Bill."
For "Triple Vision," Kanamori, Shintaro Oue and Yoshifumi Inao will each choreograph one act. Oue has been based in Europe since 1992, working mainly in Sweden and Israel. Inao moved at age 18 to Lausanne in Switzerland to apprentice himself to the revered Maurice Bejart. He then joined the experimental Cult Blanche dance company in Norway before moving to Israel, where he resides with his Norwegian wife, dancer Kristin Hjort Inao, and works with the Batsheva dance company. The Japan Times spoke with Kanamori, Oue and Inao, in the midst of rehearsals last week at Ryutopia.
I saw "Triple Bill" last year and enjoyed each program separately and the contrasts between the three. Is there a common theme in "Triple Vision"?
Kanamori: Not particularly. I asked Inao and Oue to create their pieces to freely express what they want to now. On the other hand, we are all about the same age and we each studied and worked in Europe, though never together. So now, we kind of expect something to come out of this collaboration without setting any particular theme.
Oue: I am looking at "invisible existence." I intend to create an uncomfortable and discordant feeling to create room for free imagination by the audience. I let the dancers speak a bit to highlight the plot, but the words are just tools of the dance and there is no message. There is no music -- I want the audience to hear the noises the dancers make naturally, the creak of the floor and the sound of bodies in motion. In a simple space, I would like to present something in the air -- that's invisible existence -- so my program will be quite abstract.
Inao: I have not actually started to make the program yet! With my wife Kristin, we have just done two days of workshop with the Noism dancers based on an idea we had in Israel. I think the program already exists between us and the dancers, and the final piece is waiting to be discovered, so now we will search out the form of that dance as we work together. So, I can't say what the stage will be like, but it already exists and is waiting to be realized.
K: I will do something based on "Black Ice," which I did in 2004, and it has changed a lot. The power is up, but the main concept of a relationship between dancers and a projected thermographic image remains the same. Although the dancers have to mirror the projected image, which limits their movements, there is a quite unexpected imaginative result in the end.
Why did you all leave Japan as teenagers to study dance in Europe?
K: It was quite a clear decision, I think. While I was doing dance in Japan, I saw that many older dancers were not satisfied with the environment here. Dance was not socially respected and it was just a small, closed and immature world. Of course, my father [a jazz dancer who runs a school at home] told me about the stimulating situation in other countries, where dance is more widely accepted as a top art form, so I didn't hesitate to go to Europe when I had the chance.
I: In my case, it was not such a big thing to move to Europe. I decided to go there just like you would change your school or company in Japan.
O: Most of all I wanted to escape from Japan. I wanted to be freed from parents and also the environment of Japan. Then, after a few years on my "escaping" trip, I started to think about stopping running away -- so now I have come back. Now, I am thinking of having roots in two different places if possible, because I think I am a person who cannot settle in one place.
What is the biggest difference between Europe and Japan?
I: The practical conditions for dancers are better there, as there are enough dance studios and there is enough time and the right environment to create dance. That's basic, but it's quite important.
What do you think about the recent big dance boom in Japan, for which you are among those primarily responsible?
K: I am not interested at all in this "dance boom." I suppose it had just started before I came back to Japan in 2002. So when I started Noism, the first residential dance company at the Niigata Public Arts Center, many people and the media paid attention to it. That's all. If this dance boom makes local or national officials realize the importance of dance for ordinary people in their daily lives, then I will value this boom and be interested in it. But if it's just a boom that the media is making a lot of, then I rather worry about what happens when it finishes. I am doing dance for the next 100 years-to-come in the Japanese dance world, so I don't care about any temporary dance boom.
Noism's 2006 autumn-winter tour, "Triple Vision," runs Nov. 10-12 at Niigata Ryutopia Arts Center. It then tours to Iwate, Tokyo and Shiga. For more details, call Ryutopia at (025) 224-5521, or visit www.ryutopia.or.jp