Reviewed by Matthew John Plummer, Tuesday 27th September 2016

Hiroaki Umeda is a dancer, choreographer, composer, lighting designer, scenographer, visual artist, and one of the leading figures in Japan's avant-garde art scene. Split Flow and Holistic Strata, choreographed, designed and performed by Umeda, is a sensorial experience, with a minimalist soundscape that can be felt by the body, and digital lighting that seems to almost reach out and touch you. The stage is completely empty but for the one performer, Umeda, and blankets of light, flickering, rolling, ever-changing across the stage and covering Umeda himself.

The soundscape pushes the limits within the space, peaking in volume with short stabs that can be felt deep in the body, then a rolling and grinding that seemed to ripple up and down the spine. On stage, Umeda is moving rhythmically with the audio and visual stimuli, obviously moved by the sound and light, in response to, and in addition to it providing, essentially, another stimulus for the audience, adding the physical element and, most importantly, spatiotemporal components within the choreography.

Sound, light, and human movement merge together, senses become blurred yet hypersensitive. Is the dancer moving the light, or is the light moving the dancer? Umeda seems to flow with the images splashed across the stage, and visibly recoils from the pulses and stabs of sound. The experience onstage for him can also be felt by the audience, the space around us warps and stretches to contain the huge volume of sound and light, limbs twitch and move in the seats near to me, and people are clearly affected by this display.

Umeda's highly holistic artistic methodology creates work that reaches well past The Edge of the stage, touching the audience deep inside, exploring new ground, pushing the boundaries and rules of conventional theatre, creating new terminology for movement, and new experiences for viewers. This work needs to be experienced in person to really appreciate the creation. Hiroaki Umeda is a truly magical performance maker and visual artist.

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