An exciting new dance festival named Dance New Air will debut in Tokyo from Sept. 12, featuring performances, symposia, workshops and film screenings at venues in the central Aoyama district.
However, the back story to DNA is less exciting, as it has been slotted between two stagings of the longstanding Dance Triennale Tokyo in large part to try and help to save its chief venues, Aoyama Theatre and Aoyama Round Theatre, which are scheduled to close next year.
The campaigning organizers’ fervent hope is also that, through DNA and audiences it attracts, the capital’s strands of contemporary-dance culture will be helped to continue evolving and stretch far into the future, regardless of whether the theaters stay or go.
Certainly, with many of the pieces on DNA’s roster being frontier-breaching creations, there is plenty to attract people of all ages and backgrounds.
A case in point is “Project Pinwheel,” comprising three solo works, all on the theme of family, by choreographers from three countries — Esther Balfe from Britain, Young Doo Jung from South Korea and Shigemi Kitamura from Japan.
Among DNA’s many other transnational pieces is “To Belong/Suwung,” a new work by director/producer Akiko Kitamura, which is the latest of her collaborations with artists from Indonesia — while French-raised choreographer Nacera Belaza’s “Les Oiseaux” (“The Birds”) and “La Traversee” (“The Crossing”) have deep ties with her research into rituals and traditions in Algeria, the country of her roots. Additionally, “Eastern Connection” turns the focus onto Romania and Japan through performances, workshops and talks; while the Domino Project showcases a Japan-Croatia work-in-progress piece.
Besides spanning borders, DNA also brings together diverse physical disciplines. For instance “The Red Shoes,” a new work by famous director Shuji Onodera, is a blend of art, theater and dance he created with the fast-rising Tokyo-based French contemporary artist Nicolas Buffe — and which features among its cast the Japanese actor Hairi Katagiri and the Paris-based English actress Sophie Brech, whose resume includes holding clown workshops in Afghanistan.
Continuing in its richly diverse vein, DNA will also showcase “dan-su” by Swedish-based choreographer Shintaro Oue in collaboration with actor and dancer Mirai Moriyama and dancer Shintaro Hirahara; while DJs and drag queens perform to the sounds of electro music in “Altered Natives Say Yes To Another Excess TWERK,” a delightfully mixed-up reflection on popular dance forms by the French choreographer-dancers Francois Chaignaud and Cecilia Bengolea.
And if you’ve still got juice in your tank, renowned Canadian dancer-choreographer Paul-Andre Fortier’s recent site-specific 25-minute solo outdoor work “15 X AT NIGHT” is a highlight not to be missed during its 15-night run. So, too, “Asobi” (“Play”), a work from 2013 by Belgian-based director and choreographer Kaori Ito, and 2002’s “It is Written There” by director-choreographer Zan Yamashita — works that in different ways each show how a stage can be a mirror both for and of the audience. In “Asobi,” an on-stage mirror variously reflects performers and audience members to themselves and each other; while in “It is Written There,” books are distributed to the audience, who turn the pages when instructed from the stage, so propelling the dance forward.
Meanwhile, as regards the threatened theaters — which are supposedly too old to retain — many arts lovers are convinced they still have plenty of life left in them and suspect what’s actually propelling their doom is the lure of big money from pre-2020 Olympics development in one of Tokyo’s prime locales.
Nonetheless, those keen to fan the city’s flames of dance culture will do all they can to preserve the Aoyama Theatre and the Aoyama Round Theatre — including reaching out to both established and new audiences through DNA.
Dance New Air runs Sept. 12-Oct. 5. For details, visit dancenewair.jp/index-en. This story was written in Japanese and translated by Claire Tanaka.