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Dominic Walsh Dance Theater Premieres Dance Film Project, Featuring Hana Sakai and Domenico Luciano, Today

Dominic Walsh Dance Theater Premieres Dance Film Project, Featuring Hana Sakai and Domenico Luciano, Today

Dominic Walsh Dance Theater (DWDT) will continue its 2013-2014 season with an innovative dance film project, to premiere today, April 25, 2014 at Asia Society Texas Center. Co- conceived by DWDT Artistic Director Dominic Walsh and Belgian artist Frederique de Montblanc, the film is set to feature Japanese ballerina Hana Sakai and Italian danseur Domenico Luciano, who last performed together in 2012's Uzume.

"While creating new pieces during my choreographic career, I have often thought, 'This would be a wonderful moment for film,'" says Walsh. "I shape scenes cinematically as I put together a narrative work, and have wondered before if details get lost on the stage."

Combined with a unique soundscape, the film's story is brought together through the underlying theme of "East Meeting West," and captures the beauty and poetry demonstrated by the integration of cultures. The new work also highlights the elegant architecture of Asia Society Texas Center, designed by Japanese master of line and grace, Yoshio Taniguchi, which serves as the film's backdrop.

"Dance with Camera was a wonderful exhibit at Houston's Contemporary Art Museum a few years back that offered many images and ideas regarding dance and film. I have wanted to create a similar project for quite some time now, and after my first visit to the Asia Society Texas Center, I knew where I wanted to film," Walsh notes.

The film will premiere on screen in Asia Society Texas Center's Brown Foundation Performing Arts Theater and will be followed by a supporting "final act"-a live, on-stage performance by the film's main characters, portrayed by Luciano and Sakai.

In addition to de Montblanc-who previously worked as set designer, video artist and co- conceiver for DWDT productions, Titus Andronicus and Firebird-the film's creative team includes, French Director of Photography Romain Ferrand and Belgian composer Loup Mormont.

"Being asked by Dominic to direct this dance film was in many ways a dream come true. Despite leaving Houston four years ago, Texas continues to hold a special place in my heart, and has greatly influenced my art since my return to Europe," says de Montblanc. "With Dominic's virtuosity, Romain's sensual relationship to light, and my own painterly approach to framing, the piece will portray the surreal world lying between the lines of the everyday."

De Montblanc last collaborated with DWDT in 2009 on the creation of Walsh's Firebird, in which Igor Stravinsky's famous score became the soundtrack to the intimate story of a couple going through a crisis after many years of marriage.

The current project builds upon the foundation created in Firebird by furthering the company's exploration-through space and movement-into the impact that the domestic and mundane, everyday life can have on the body and the psyche.

In part, the film is also a nod to the novel The Wind-up Bird Chronicle by highly celebrated Japanese author Haruki Murakami. The plight of the novel's central character caught the attention of Walsh and de Montblanc who immediately saw parallels between the novel and their plans for the film.

In the Murakami tale, protagonist Toru Okada is in a state of transition between jobs, which becomes the detonator for a mind-blowing inner journey. His story seems to come about as a long and strange lucid dream. It begins in a suburban setting, but soon enough the reader's sense of location seems to evaporate as the character begins to think of his wife as a fantasy or ghost. Within his conscious mind he creates images of her, as if he may stop loving her without these recreations.

This dream-like state was particularly evocative in terms of creating movement and imagery for Walsh and de Montblanc's film. Through both cinematography and choreography, viewers are faced with the challenging question of presence as in the novel.

In the film, Asia Society Texas Center's beautiful building helps to set the stage for this dream-like state. Precisely lit by Ferrand and reframed by de Montblanc, the film captures the building's many celebrated architectural elements-including the sometimes-steamy Elkins Foundation Water Garden. The water garden is prominently featured during a scene in which the thoughts of Luciano's character "transport" him to the terrace while he is making a cup of tea. He watches the steam rise from his tea pot and begins to daydream of dancing among the steam. The film shares his daydream with the audience as he dances a pas de deux with his wife, elegantly portrayed by Sakai, in the mist rising from the pool.

The film marks DWDT's second collaborative effort with Asia Society Texas Center, who is generously providing support for the production. The two organizations first worked together in 2012 to bring the world premiere of Walsh's critically praised Uzume to the stage.

"Houston is a vibrant cultural metropolis, and Asia Society Texas Center has a unique opportunity to collaborate with its diverse artistic neighbors," adds Asia Society Texas Center executive director, Bonna Kol. "Through this project, we are so thrilled to continue our partnership with Dominic Walsh Dance Theater, whose innovative and creative work celebrates all the makes Houston great."


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by Barnett Serchuk