Yass Hakoshima Premiered New Dance Theater Work – Rashomon

Yass Hakoshima Premiered New Dance Theater Work
College of St. Elizabeth
Wednesday, April 29 at 7:30 pm

The College of St. Elizabeth, and the Physical Education Dance Program presented the Yass Hakoshima Movement Theatre in the world premiere of Rashomon or Encounter Under the Cloud-Gate with the Da Capo Chamber Players set to a commissioned score by 2009 Charles Ives Fellowshipwinner Raymond J. Lustig on Wednesday, April 29, 2009 at 7:30 PM. in Dolan Performance Hall at the College of St. Elizabeth, Morristown, NJ.

Set in 16th century Japan and inspired by Ryunosuke Akutagawa's short story Rashomon, Yass Hakoshima's newest movement theatre work explores the relationship between a professional thief and a wealthy samurai. The thief, who lives as a poor stranger near the wealthy samurai's residence, tries to rob the samurai while he is hiding in the shadows of the Rashomon gate. Eventually the two argue and a duel begins. The samurai overcomes the thief, who barely escapes with his life and limps away, but in a final twist, something unexpected happens to the samurai.

The work explores what individuals must do to survive utilizing a performance technique Gia Kourlas describes as "Šuffused with humor, pathos, gentleness and precision that remains entirely his own." The New York Times – March 22, 2008. Although he has set the piece in feudal Japan, Hakoshima believes the issues raised are relevant to the present. "During the samurai era in Japan in the 16th century, many kinds of warriors lived in constant fear and alertness. As a result, the attitude of self-defense became present in their everyday behavior," Hakoshima explains in his artist statement. "Those who were able to overcome their fear, and fight back, had chances to win. Even today, we often live surrounded by enemies and have to fight for ourselves and our dear ones. We have to be fearless, physically and mentally strong, and have the ability to laugh and enjoy life even in the most difficult circumstances—only then do we have chances to win."

Hakoshima drew on techniques from Japanese stage dramas including Noh, Kabuki, and Kyogen, which use movement and music to tell stories of human behavior. In the Noh drama the action is symbolic, stylized, pared down to aesthetic quintessence. In Kabuki the action is pompous and over-dramatized. Kyogen is used as farcical interludes in the dramatic plays of Kabuki. Major characters can be sometimes comical but at the same time they deliver a deep philosophical message to the audience. The traditional musical ensemble, which accompanies these theatre forms, includes flute, percussion, shamisen, and a low chant of men's voices, singing without words. Rashomon or Encounter Under the Cloud-Gate is choreographed for two dancers and five musicians in black kimonos and wigs that characterize court musicians. Whitney V. Hunter performs the role of the Thief. Named one of Trace Magazine's seven NYC Dancers on the Rise in 2007, Hunter has performed with the Kankouran West African Dance Company, in the companies of Doug Hamby, Rod Rodgers, Pearl Lang, Reggie Wilson, Pascal Rioult, Martha Clark, Martha Graham and at the Metropolitan Opera.

Raymond J. Lustig's commissioned score is also inspired by traditional Japanese aesthetics. Although performed on Western instruments, the piece utilizes a unique blend of Eastern and Western idioms sometimes requiring the instruments to imitate Japanese musical sounds. "There is a close interaction between music and dance in this work," Mr. Hakoshima explained. "The minds of the two characters are always affected by the music, by its rhythms and textures. There is a kind of psychological interaction between dance and music; the latter reinforces and leads the psychological development of the characters, gradually building up to the intense dramatic climax of each scene."

Lustig, who was born in Tokyo and raised in Queens, New York, is also the winner of the 2007 Ascap Foundation's Rudolf Nissim Prize. His music has been presented at Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall, New York's Symphony Space, the Bowling Green New Music Festival, the Norfolk and Caramoor summer music festivals, the European American Musical Alliance in Paris, the New York City Ballet's Choreographic Institute, and the Juilliard Beyond the Machine Festival. Lustig has collaborated with choreographers Peter Quantz, Melissa Barak, and Brynt

Beitman and his music has also been used at the New York Choreographic Institute, the Juilliard School's Composers and Choreographers concert, and Barnard College's Spring Dances concert.

Winner of the Naumburg Chamber Music Award in 1973, the Da Capo Chamber Players are committed to building a strong heritage of present-day American chamber music. The group has performed at international festivals and has more than 90 chamber music works written especially for them by composers as varied as Joan Tower, Philip Glass, Harvey Sollberger, Philippe Bodin, and many others. Since their founding in 1970, Da Capo have presented an annual New York City concert series that has included gala concerts honoring major composers and groundbreaking programs that stretch the definition of chamber music.

Rashomon or Encounter Under the Cloud-Gate was made possible through a grant by the American Music Center's program "Live Music for Dance." This is the fourth year in a row, that Danmari Ltd has received support from the American Music Center for Live Music performances. Following the premier, Rashomon or Encounter Under the Cloud-Gate toured in South Jersey.