Multi-disciplinary solo Japanese artist Hiroaki Umeda creates entire environments with dramatic strobe-like lighting, crackling digital soundscapes and, of course, his commanding presence as a performer. Highly contemporary, Umeda’s movement style draws upon an eclectic training in ballet, hip-hop and butoh to embody the extremes of modern life in Japan in ways that are at once subtle and shocking, serene and violent. (1 hour)
WHAT IS IT? Hiroaki Umeda didn’t study dance. He studied how to create something out of nothing using his body. With an array of lighting and sound effects — like strobes, ambient recordings of what could be crickets, running water, or bees — he aims to create an alternate world in which to speak.
WHY SEE IT? If that creeps you out — well, maybe you really should see him dance. Good way to get over it. Umeda’s theory of dance is somewhat abstract. In fact, it’s about as airy as theories get. It has to do with thinking with your body and feeling with your mind. Set your mind on something like a Zen koan — say, a tree falling in the woods. Does it make a sound if no one’s there? To a dancer-philosopher like Umeda, the puzzle presupposes agency and an unnatural division of essence between you and the tree. Proper consciousness is oneness with the tree (i.e., the universe). For Umeda, the question of whether the tree makes a sound or not is clear. The answer is yes.
WHO SHOULD GO? If you’re uncomfortable with abstraction, disorientation, and things that are just plain weird, don’t see Umeda. On the other hand, if you enjoy pebble gardens, bird song, the sound of running water over smooth stones, and the wind in your face as you squint into the setting sun, you should consider buying a ticket. We’re sure you’ll enjoy it. (John Stoehr)