Originally published on metropolis.co.jp on December 2009
Yasuo Ozawa is so enthusiastic about the contemporary Japanese performance scene that he’s founded an organization dedicated to its research. His decision to title the concern the Japan Performance/Art Institute gives some indication as to the cross-disciplinary fusion of performing, visual and musical arts now taking place not only in Japan but across the planet.
At the center of Ozawa’s efforts is the Harajuku Performance + festival, whose third installment takes place this month. Over four days, the event will present a broad spectrum of performance art, from film-dance fusion to anime-inspired breakdance, on to live light-painting and musical scratching on vintage open reel tape decks.
The festival launches with Kawauso (“Otter”) by Romantica, the stage name of singer, dancer and choreographer Keiko Yokomachi. The lithesome Yokomachi (right) began her career with children’s choruses for Placido Domingo and The Carpenters, among others, and later on in art school launched Romantica as a vehicle for her evidently now playful, erotic imagination.
For Kawauso, she’s teamed up with videographer Tomorowo [sic] Taguchi and saxophonist Naruyoshi Kikuchi to create a cross-disciplinary drama. A driver who is apparently involved in a hit-and-run finds that his female victim has mysteriously appeared in the front seat next to him—after he buried her by the roadside. The piece is billed as a “neurotic fugue” that takes on themes of memory and existence by means of dance, film and music.
Following Kawauso comes a two-day smorgasbord of artists under the theme “performance.” Among the more established are well-known contemporary dancers Ikuyo Kuroda and Kota Yamazaki, each of whom will perform solo.
Less familiar to an international audience—although some may have seen its members perform with Madonna on her 2008 world tour—is dance troupe Hamutsun Serve. Named after the “special move” of the main character from the comic Inachu Ping-Pong Club, the group is influenced by animation and was invited by an evidently impressed Madonna to join her Hard Candy tour.
Tochka don’t dance, but they are also part of the anime world. The duo of Takashi Nagata and Kazue Monno create live interactive light animations that they term PikaPika. Also referred to as their “Lightning Doodle Project,” Nagata and Monno’s whimsical creations are realized through a clever use of simple flashlights and long-exposure photography, with the audience always included in the fun.
Finally, readers may be familiar with Open Reel Ensemble, whose unusual repurposing of obsolete open reel tape decks was recently featured in these pages. Though strictly speaking a musical group, Open Reel’s live scratching has, at its best, a choreographed, almost balletic quality.
Harajuku Performance + 2009
Annual performance festival incorporating various forms of dance, acting, movies and art. Dec 19-23, various times, ¥3,500 (adv)/¥4,000 (door). La Foret Museum, Harajuku. Tel: 0570-02-9999.