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'RHAPSODY IN BLUE'

Yukichi Hattori loses the plot

by Stephanie Hannon

Director, dancer and choreographer Yukichi Hattori broke from tradition when he created “Rhapsody in Blue,” his innovative symphonic ballet. Unlike classic ballet productions, there is no plot, so performers are left to physically interpret the meaning of the music through dance. “Rhapsody in Blue” begins a three-city tour of Japan at Tokyo’s Bunkamura Orchard Hall on June 15-17 before moving on to Nagoya (June 22) and Osaka (June 30)

Hattori, born in Tokyo but now a member of the Alberta Ballet, Canada, will have to be at his best in order not to be upstaged by square-jawed heartthrob Rasta Thomas. A dancer with an unusual background, Thomas was born in San Francisco in 1981 before he moved with his family to Saudi Arabia as a youngster. There, he was encouraged by his father to take up various forms of martial arts, in part to help Thomas recover from a leg injury he suffered in a car accident when he was an infant. He recovered quickly — by the age of 5, he had received his first black belt in tae kwon do.

Thomas also took up ballet. After joining the Kirov Academy of Ballet in Washington, D.C., he was able to utilize the strength and mental discipline he had developed in martial arts to become a successful dancer.

At the age of 13, Thomas was the youngest person ever to win the Jury Prize at the 1994 Paris International Dance Competition.

He recently came to Japan in 2006, when he danced to Billy Joel’s hits in the Broadway musical “Movin’ Out.”

In “Rhapsody” he will perform alongside dancers Tomohiko Tsujimoto and Masayoshi Onuki — and the orchestra. Taking a more central role, musicians will appear on stage in full view of the audience rather than being positioned in the pit below.

Led by conductor Seikyo Kim, the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra will play at the Orchard Hall in Tokyo. The Century Orchestra Osaka (also led by Kim) will play in the Nagoya and Osaka shows.

The program will include George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue.” The piece was first performed in 1924 and was one of the first orchestral pieces to show a strong influence of American jazz. Claude Debussy’s “Clair de Lune” (Moonlight), Arnold Schonberg’s “Verklarte Nacht” and Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings” are also on the program.

Tickets are 5,000-12,000 yen yen. For the Tokyo dates, call Bunkamura Orchard Hall at (03) 3477-9999. Call Kyodo Tokai on (052) 972-7466 for information on the performance at Aichi Prefectural Art Theater, Nagoya; and call Umeda Arts Theater (06) 6377-3800 for details on the performances in Osaka. For additional information, visit www.umegei.com/m2007/kimu.html (Japanese only).