Japan Society Presents KABUKI DANCE, 3/29-31


Japan Society presents Kabuki Dance, led by master dancer Bando Kotoji, as part of the Society's Performing Arts Season spanning Fall 2011 through Spring 2012.  This extraordinary traditional program plays three performances only Thursday, March 29 – Saturday, March 31 at Japan Society (333 East 47th Street) as part of a five city East Coast Tour organized by Japan Society and funded by The Japan Foundation in celebration of the 100th anniversary of Japan's gift of cherry trees to Washington, DC and New York City.

Encounter the elegant and refined art form of nihon buyo, time-honored Japanese dance, led by Bando Kotoji to the accompaniment of live music.  From his vast repertoire, Bando Kotoji has selected four vibrant works for this Kabuki Dance program, including two dances from the kabuki repertoire: Yoshino-yama (Yoshino Mountain), set on the mountain famous for its magnificent cherry blossoms (from the kabuki play Yoshitsune Senbon-zakura); and Cho no Michiyuki (The Last Journey of Two Butterflies), about two lovers who are reunited as butterflies in the afterworld (from the kabuki play Keisei Yamatososhi).  The program also includes the celebratory Sanbaso dance, and the dramatic and tragic Tamatori Ama (The Pearl Diver) dance.  Event includes pre-performance lectures.

Nihon buyo can be translated as "Japanese (nihon) dance (buyo)."  Nihon buyo technique is the same as kabuki dance technique.  They share the same training methods, requiring students to begin from early childhood in order to master the necessary highly stylized body movements.  In this sense, nihon buyo can be categorized as a type of traditional Japanese performing arts.   However, when concepts of Western "high-art" entered into Japan at the end of the 19th century, a new performing arts movement began to develop.  Japanese artists were inspired to incorporate individual expression into their work and professional kabuki performers and kabuki dance practitioners began to free themselves from grand kabuki productions as their only means of public presentation.  Using traditional kabuki dance techniques, nihon buyo performers have built a repertoire that now consists of popular sections from famous kabuki plays as well as pieces inspired by classical noh plays and old folk tales.  They have also integrated musical elements from kabuki and bunraku such as shamisen and storytelling chanters. 

Further Program Details:
Traditionally presented as part of celebrations such as the New Year or new theater openings and always at the beginning of the a program, Sanbaso is a joyful dance expressing thanks to the gods and praying for a peaceful and prosperous future (stage action represents ancient religious devotions for a successful harvest).  Originally created as a part of the ancient noh play Okina, the Sanbaso form has been adapted over the centuries for kabuki, puppetry plays and nihon buyo

Cho no Michiyuki (The Last Journey of Two Butterflies) was written by Namiki Gohei (1747-1808) as the michiyuki (journey segment) of his play Keisei Yamatososhi.  The flashy choreography and costumes of Cho no Michiyuki in the 1962 re-staging of Keisei Yamatososhi at Tokyo's Kabuki-za Theater further popularized this segment and led to its adaption by nihon buyo performers into an independent dance piece performed in the gidayu music tradition, a style of chanting accompanied by shamisen.  The story follows two lovers from feuding families who reunite in the afterlife as butterflies, flying together through a flowering field before paying a horrific price for the sins of their families.  This current version features hiki-nuki, an impressive, instantaneous on-stage costume change.

In Tamatori Ama (The Pearl Diver), Fujiwara-no Fuhito, son of a mid-7th Century noble politician Fujiwara-no Kamatari, travels to Shido Village in search of a pearl sent by his sister in China to mourn their late father.  Along the way, the pearl is intercepted by the Divine Dragon of the Sea.  Disguised as a commoner, Fuhito settles in Shido and falls in love with a locAl Pearl diver.  By the power of her sutras and through great peril she retrieves the pearl, but all seems lost when the dragon attempts to reclaim its treasure.  Based on the famous legend Ryugu Tamatori-hime (The Dragon and the Tamatori Princess), the piece is accompanied by jiuta, one of the oldest styles of music for shamisen and singing developed at the beginning of the 17th century.

Yoshino-yama (Yoshino Mountain) is the michiyuki of the play Yoshitsune Senbon-zakura (Yoshitsune and the Thousand Cherry Trees), which premiered as a puppet play at the Takemoto-za Theater in Osaka in 1747 and was adapted into a kabuki production in the following year.  This work is one of the most frequently performed and popular pieces in the kabuki repertoire.  Set on Yoshino-yama, a mountain covered in cherry trees in full bloom, the story follows Shizuka-gozen as she searches for her lover, the fugitive Warrior Yoshitsune.  When she strikes a hand-drum, a fox disguised as her lover's servant appears and the two share stories remembering Warrior Yoshitsune.

Bando Kotoji (director and dancer) began nihon buyo training under his father and aunt at age six and continued to train under numerous master instructors.  In 1981, Kotoji founded the dance group "Odori no Kukan" with young performers from various schools.  He began to hold performances in unconventional locations such as underground theaters, temples and outdoor settings, and paved the way for collaborations with artists such as flamenco dancers Nagamine Yasuko and Komatsubara Yoko, wadaiko drum player Hayashi Eitetsu and rokyoku chanter Kunimoto Takeharu.  As a director and choreographer, Kotoji's works include the Omnibus Noh (Trilogy), starring Umewaka Manzaburo; Utai-katari Sumida River, starring noh performer Nomura Shiro and bunraku chanter Toyotake Sakitayu; a bunraku performance of The World of the Bunraku Puppeteer Yoshida Bunjaku; and Zenshin-za Company's Terakoya Iroha Okuri and Tsuchigumo Taiji.  Kotoji has performed in many locations abroad including at the Korean Expo, in Indonesia, Thailand, throughout Central and South America, Norway and Spain.  His choreography has been performed in over 20 countries including a noh production in Germany, a kabuki production in the U.S., and in productions in Russia, Turkey and China.  Under the penname Mura Naoya, Kotoji is a longtime writer for a number of monthly periodicals on nihon buyo.  His published books include The Encyclopedia of Nihon Buyo (Nihon Buyo no Taikan)Enjoying 70 Noh plays through Manga (Manga de Tanoshimu Noh Nana-juu-ban) and The Japanese Soul Hidden by Gestures (Shigusa ni kakusareta Nihonjin no Kokoro).  He has appeared on NHK TV in shows including Geino Hanabutai and Introduction to Traditional Arts, and on the radio program Hogaku no Tanoshimi.  Kotoji has served on juries and committees for the Agency for Cultural Affairs National Arts Festival, the Agency or Cultural Affairs Encouragement Prize Awards, Arts Plan Program and the Japan Arts Council (National Theatre of Japan).

Kabuki Dance is performed by: Bando Kotoji (director and dancer), Hananomoto Kai (dancer), Nishizaki Sakurako (dancer), Furusawa Ufo (dancer), Nishizaki Emino (dancer), Kawamoto Shiyo (assistant), Kawamoto Ryuyo (koken/stagehand), Takemoto Koshiko (chanter), Takemoto Koshiharu (chanter), Tsurusawa Kazu (shamisen), Tsurusawa Yaya (shamisen), Fujii Hirokazu (jiuta), Mochizuki Taikichi (hayashi/percussion).  Note: Names are written in traditional Japanese order of last name/first name.

Commemorating the 100th anniversary of the gift of cherry trees from Japan to New York and Washington, DC, Kabuki Dance at Japan Society is held in conjunction with the Society-wide Sakura – Spring Renews, Beauty Blooms festival shaped around the many meanings of sakura, or cherry blossoms.  Programs slated March 6 – April 14 include a 10-part film series revealing the beauty of transience (mono no aware in Japanese), a talk with architect Rem Koolhaas and a Japanese confections discussion and workshop.  The Sakura series culminates on April 14 with Japan Society's annual j-CATION all-day culture festival – 12 hours of crafts, workshops, language classes, film screenings, live concerts and a Japanese-style game show.  http://www.japansociety.org/sakura

From March 6–20 the Society presents One Year Later: Commemorating the One-Year Anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake & Tsunami, marking the anniversary of the disasters in Japan and remembering the victims with a day of reflection on March 11, including a moment of silence presided by Ambassador Shigeyuki Hiroki at 2:46pm; documentary screenings, including recent Academy Award nominee The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom; a photographic exhibit illustrating the disaster's human tragedy and the optimism and resilience of local people struggling to rebuild; doll and craft making events for families to share with children in Japan; and panel discussions examining the recovery process and tremendous challenges that remain.  Additional major March events include the film series Love Will Tear Us Apart (March 2-18) and Japan Society Gallery's spring exhibition Deco Japan: Shaping Art and Culture, 1920-1945 (March 16-June 10).  http://www.japansociety.org/one-year-later

About Japan Society's Performing Arts Program: Since the inception of the Performing Arts Program in 1953, Japan Society has introduced more than 600 of Japan's finest performing arts to an extensive American audience.  Programs range from the traditional arts of noh, kyogen, bunraku and kabuki to cutting-Edge Theater, dance and music.  The Program also commissions new works, produces national tours, organizes residency programs for American and Japanese artists and develops and distributes educational programs. 

The current Fall 2011/Spring 2012 Performing Arts Season presents visionary work in theater, music and dance.  The season launched with the Shizuoka Performing Arts Center (SPAC) production of Medea interpreted and directed by Satoshi Miyagi, and continued with J-Music Ride featuring Cibo Matto & Yu Sakai and Turntable Duo: Otomo Yoshihide + Christian Marclay, part of the Performa 11 biennial.  Japan Society was recently represented by two productions in Under The Radar Festival 2012: Hideki Noda's THE BEE and chelfitsch Theater Company's Hot Pepper, Air Conditioner, and the Farewell Speech and also presented a reading of Our Planet, written by Yukio Shiba and directed by Alec Duffy, as part of its Annual Play Reading Series.  April ushers in Bessie Award winner Kota Yamazaki/Fluid Hug-Hug with (glowing), arriving at Japan Society during a world premiere tour (co-commissioned by Japan Society and The Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center - EMPAC). 

About Japan Society: Founded in 1907, Japan Society is a world-class, multidisciplinary hub for global leaders, artists, scholars, educators, and English and Japanese speaking audiences.  At the Society, more than 100 events each year feature sophisticated, topically relevant presentations of Japanese art and culture and open, critical dialogue on issues of vital importance to the U.S., Japan and East Asia.  An American nonprofit, nonpolitical organization, the Society cultivates a constructive, resonant and dynamic relationship between the people of the U.S. and Japan.

Tickets & Information
Performances: Thursday, March 29 & Friday, March 30 at 7:30pm and Saturday, March 31 at 2:00pm.Tickets are $50/$40 Japan Society members; Special Opening Night Tickets are $75/$55 (includes prime seating and private MetLife Meet-the-Artists Reception (limited availability).  Tickets can be purchased by calling the Box Office at (212) 715-1258 or in person at Japan Society (M-F 11:00 AM–6:00 PM and Sat-Sun 11:00 AM–5:00 PM).  Japan Society is located at 333 East 47th Street, between First and Second Avenues (accessible by the 4/5/6 at 42nd Street-Grand Central Station or the E and V at Lexington Avenue and 53rd Street). 

For more information call (212) 832-1155 or visit www.japansociety.org.


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