As the saying goes, “If you chase two hares, you’ll catch neither” — but award-winning actor Mirai Moriyama is proving the exception who’s broken this rule by adding “top-flight dancer” to his resume.
Although the 31-year-old Kobe native actually started dance lessons at age 5, he made his career as a stage actor and star of the big and small screens following his 1999 debut in Amon Miyamoto’s hit comic musical, “Boys Time.”
In October 2013, he went to Israel as a “Japan cultural envoy” of the Agency of Cultural Affairs, spending a year with the Tel Aviv-based Inbal Pinto & Avshalom Pollak Dance Company founded in 1992 by that duo of artists trained in dance and acting, respectively.
“In Israel, I could enjoy thinking only about the art of expression,” he said when we met recently in Tokyo. “Israeli artists are so tough and energetic, and they attach greater importance to their own motivation than to the audience’s reaction — so due to their influence, I was able to overcome my hesitation about creating something original, and my mind was opened.”
During his stay with that acclaimed 12-strong company, Moriyama and Israeli dancer Ella Rothschild created “Judas, Christ with Soy,” a duet piece based on “Kakekomi-Uttae” (“An Urgent Appeal”), a short story by the great but ill-fated Osamu Dazai (1909-48). The work, a monologue by Judas about his intense feelings for Jesus, will be performed in Yokohama next month.
“When I read Dazai’s book many years ago, I felt there is only a thin line between love and hate,” he said, “and for a long time now, if I’ve been portraying a good character, I’ve always wanted to find their bad side, too, and vice versa. However, I don’t know if reading Dazai or my acting approach came first.
“We started “Judas, Christ with Soy” as our own story,” he said, explaining how he and Rothschild began to create a dance on the theme of explicit and implicit communication Dazai’s book inspired.
“In one part, Ella reads out her own poetry in Hebrew and I speak Japanese to the sound of her voice regardless of the content, because I don’t understand Hebrew. In another part, you can see us like one person. Or sometimes, I may be like Judas — or Christ,” he said.
After this show, Moriyama will play the lead in the world premiere of “Shikeishikkou-chu/Datsugokushhinkou-chu” (“Execution-time/Jailbreak-time),” a stage adaptation of an eponymous Hirohiko Araki manga directed by Nei Hasegawa and co-choreographed by him and Moriyama.
Then in December and again in May, he will restage last year’s “dan-su,” a dance piece with Shintaro Oue and Shintaro Hirahara.
In January, meanwhile, he will be rejoining the Tel Aviv troupe when it tours Japan with “Dust.”
“I was in the cast when that work premiered in 2013,” Moriyama recalled. “It starts with an animation of water flowing over a city — then you see it’s actually the tears of a girl in a school. After that, our performance in a classroom starts, with me as one of the students.”
Commenting on the rare fact in Japan of a popular movie star such as himself performing on four different live stages in six months, this multitalented artist replied: “After May as well, I have more exciting stage roles scheduled.
“My brain is in a mess — a good mess. People may say, ‘What’s going on Moriyama?’ and I wonder about that, too. (Laughs) However, because I can do what I want to do, I’m enjoying every day even though this may not go on forever — although it might!”
So how does he intend to spend the rest of his 30s, I enquired?
“Well, I’ve read that the brain inputs many things until we get to the age of 30, and then our output time really starts,” he mused on a tangent. “I’m not sure whether that’s true or not, but I hope so.”
“Judas, Christ with Soy” runs Oct. 10-12 at Honmoku Area-2 in Yokohama. For details, call 045-663-1365 or visit dance-yokohama.jp.