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Asian Performing Arts Festival has works from seven nations

by Nobuko Tanaka

If you’d like to sample some of the best contemporary performing arts that Asia has to offer — without leaving Japan — then check out the Asian Performing Arts Festival 2009.

The festival is set to be staged over five days this month at Tokyo Metropolitan Art Space opposite the West Exit of Tokyo’s Ikebukuro Station.

Started in Tokyo in 2002 by an umbrella body named the Asian Major Cities Network 21, which aims to foster cultural and creative ties as well as encourage the market for performing arts in Asia, the event returns this year to its birthplace for the first time, after being staged in the interim in New Delhi, Hanoi, Taipei, Manila and Seoul (there was one break in 2005).

There are three different categories in this year’s festival, with the core one being its three international collaboration works. These comprise a new play based on medieval English morality plays directed by South Korean director Kim Suk Man, and acted by Japanese; a new contemporary dance program jointly created by Taipei choreographer Shun-Fen Yao and Japan’s renowned Mikuni Yanaihara; and a traditional Vietnamese Thang Long water-puppet theater performed by Japanese artist Madoka Okada.

Adding to the festival’s appetizing menu of events is “Asian Kitchen,” for which seven enthusiastic young Japanese playwrights wrote seven short, one-actor plays based on the theme of food and cooking in seven Asian cities – Seoul, Taipei, Hanoi, Kuala Lumpur, Manila, New Delhi and Tokyo — with the acting role in each taken by a person from each respective country who are residing in Japan.

In the final category of festival events, titled “Tokyo Butai Live Version 2009,” eight Tokyo-based young theater companies will each present a “compact showcase version” of their most important works to date.

Altogether, in what promises to be a really happening time in Ikebukuro, visitors will be able to experience up to 18 different programs from seven nations — with each program lasting for a bite-size 20 to 30 minutes. And what’s more, they’re all free.

The Asian Performing Arts Festival runs from Nov. 25-29 at Tokyo Metropolitan Arts Space, a 2-min. walk from JR Ikebukuro Station’s West Exit. For more information, call the festival office at (03) 3477-0807 or visit www.butai.asia