Born in Tokyo. Graduated Keio University Faculty of Literature, Department of Philosophy, aesthetics and art history major. Since 1990s, She has been at the forefront of the Japanese art scene as a writer / art journalist / art producer. 2003 spring, launched an art bar TRAUMARIS in Roppongi, was moved to Ebisu NADiff building, as an alternative space TRAUMARIS where art exhibitions, live performances, food and drink can be enjoyed. After closed the space, is currently involved in various art activities beyond the boundaries of the genre as an art producer. A jury for Yokohama Dance Collection’s competition from 2011 to 2016. A producer of Dance and Nursery!! Project since 2016. Established RealJapan project as a co-director. http://www.traumaris.jp Photo by Mari Katayama
It appears to me that, for a very long time, there has been an uncrossable line that divided contemporary dance from universally accessible show dance, which is perhaps due to its “artistic,” “abstract” and “conceptual” qualities. Mention “dinner shows,” and people will automatically think of belly dance or flamenco performances at restaurants, or various entertainment at hotels and night clubs. Greatly interested in the chemical reaction that may take place when food and drink meet contemporary performing arts, I have been experimenting a bit with that combination in the art space that I’m running myself.
The first installment in the “Chain Museum” project that Masamichi Toyama, Smiles Co., Ltd. and the creative collective “PARTY” launched in 2018 was a contemporary kind of dinner show integrating food, liquor and dance. A vegan restaurant that was converted into a stage offered their guests a genuine 4-hour program combining dance and a full-course dinner. Performing was Co. Yamada Un, currently one of the most “cutting edge” companies in the Japanese dance scene. The company’s 16 well-trained male and female dancers have been wowing audiences across Japan with highly refined performances of group and solo dance, mixing concrete thematic and abstract elements that highlight each member’s individual character.
The show this time began tense and stimulating, so the introduction wasn’t exactly smooth. Straight-faced and dressed in identical chef coats, the dancers twisted and tangled to Stravinsky’s music, moved up very close to the seated guests and across (above) their tables. Their tenaciously repeated actions and in-your-face physical presence in front of the clear-faced audience must have felt rather disquieting to some of the diners (who weren’t necessarily all hardcore dance fans), and certainly shook up their flaccid consciousness. Then the tables were covered with white tablecloths for the long-awaited dinner, however just when the tense atmosphere was loosened with delicate food, drinks and chats, the dancers returned for part two. This included everything from comical duels to short short plays, before everything got sweetly melted down in a dessert buffet, accompanied by an impromptu performance reciting the life story of a random person picked from the audience. After the tension had been gradually raised with a smart combination of intoxicating and surreal scenes, the show closed with the company’s energetic specialty group dance performed to march music in the festive style of a Japanese “ohayashi” orchestra.
photo: Chie Sumiyoshi
The real climax of the party, however, came after the performance, in the form of a meet ‘n’ greet with the dancers once the ovation had calmed down. So here the guests that are normally too far away to go backstage in a theater had the chance to drink a toast and chat with the artists, and it was this very scene with everyone on the same footing that marked the evening’s finale. Restaurant and stage, recipe and choreography, service and performance – all these elements that each involve physical action in one form or another fused together, and all kinds of people mingled with each other. The setting of the restaurant helped make the visit an artistic experience on a human scale, and I can definitely imagine this to develop into a new artistic genre that evokes a new kind of sensitivity beyond conventional theater culture.
Translated by Andreas Stuhlmann
“Dokudamu” The Chain Museum / Co. Yamada Un
Choreography and staging: Un Yamada
Written: Akira Nishijima
Performer: Sayuri Iimori, Ron Kawai, Yutaro Kawachi, Kota Kihara, Masashi Koyama, Sasuke Sarutobi, Yuki Nishiyama, Nobu Hasegawa, Chisa Hirosue, Yoko Mita, Shotaro Yamaguchi, Yamazaki, Un Yamada, Toru Hasegawa, Yoko Mita, Mayu Yamazaki
Cooperation: TWIGGY. Honno chusu theatre