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‘Tokyo Tango’: A fairy tale to keep you on your toes

by Tai Kawabata

Staff Writer

When the mayor of a village is told by a frog king, who is fascinated by the elegance of swans gliding in the lake, that his villagers should wear toe shoes (ballet pointe shoes) all the time, he instructs everyone between the age of 8 months and 88 years to do so. Though at first this seems like a fun idea, the villagers soon find their new footwear uncomfortable, and the mayor decides to hold a referendum on the new fashion law.

“Tokyo Tango” tells this odd little tale with Jean Laurent Sasportes, a former principal dancer with the German-based Pina Bausch Wuppertaler Tanztheater, in the lead role of the mayor, and Mademoiselle Cinema, a Tokyo-based all-female dance company, as the villagers.

Sasportes and Mademoiselle Cinema have been collaborating since 1999, with Sasportes traveling from Germany every year to work with the company’s dancers and theater students at Sessions House in Tokyo. “Tokyo Tango,” which was first performed in 2005, was choreographed by Naoko Ito, who Sasporte says has developed a strong repertory of her own individual style and visual language.

“‘Tokyo Tango’ is a fairy tale created out of the fantasy world of the choreographer Naoko Ito,” he said, adding “I believe it is good for the public to watch it like a child would listen to a fairy tale — without any intellectual expectation, just enjoyment and pleasure of being transported to a moment of time in fantasy.

“I hope the audience, the dancers and myself rediscover the little child in each of us and enjoy this moment together.”

Sasportes, who took part in all the works of the Pina Bausch company from 1979 to 1996 before becoming independent, keeps fluid and elegant body lines even during fierce, dramatic dance moves. His solo scenes in particular showcase the dance and theater methods he acquired and developed through his work with the world-renowned Pina Bausch company.

The final scene incorporates the tango of this performance’s title. But, unusually, the dance is not performed by couples. Instead we see solo tangos, and the audience can look forward to seeing Sasportes, who taught tango in the Wuppertaler company, perform a dignified tango with outstanding skill.

“Tokyo Tango” is a humorous piece that is mostly played out through contemporary dance, but also involves acting and dialogue (in Japanese) that draw the audience further into its quirky realms. It is most certainly an unusual performance.

As Sasportes said, “It is always better to be with no other expectation than the hope to discover a new world — and then be surprised by the unexpected.”

“Tokyo Tango” will be staged at Sessions House near Exit 1 of Kagurazaka Station, Tozai Line; performances take place at 7 p.m. on Aug. 20 and at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. on Aug. 21. Tickets are ¥3,500 (advance), ¥4,000 (at the door) and ¥2,500 (students, advance). For reservations, call (03) 3266-0461 or e-mail yoyaku@session-house.net. For more information, visit www.session-house.net/mc.html.