Ichinosuke Umekawa, the internationally acclaimed Japanese dance master, who will run a workshop at this year’s Epidaurus Lyceum, entitled Greek Tragedy through the eye of Japanese Dance, shares his thoughts on dance, art and ancient drama.
- My passion for classical music started in my childhood. Ever since then, I have wanted to build my career as a performing artist. After I graduated from university, I began my career at the prestigious Tokyo Ballet Company in 2005. While I was on a European tour, I came to develop more love and appreciation for my own culture and I decided to change course. I undertook extensive training at the Kabuki Actor Training Division of the National Theatre of Japan in 2007. For three years, I immersed myself in the world and training of Kabuki acting. It was during my tenure at The National Theatre of Japan that I had the opportunity to receive training from the famous and nationally renowned Mr. Tamasaburo Bando, a national treasure of Japan and specialist in the Kabuki method. Mr. Bando graciously took me under his wing. It was under his tutelage and encouragement that I immersed myself in and learned the style of a Buyoka, a specialist in the Japanese traditional performing arts.
- Kabuki is a classical Japanese performing art and is a popular entertainment that has deeply been engraved in the hearts of Japanese for over 400 years. In addition, the spirit of Bushido (the code of conduct for Samurai which is the ethical base for the society) is carried on traditionally and deeply rooted in its current form of art. I originally started my career as a classical ballet dancer, so my appreciation for beauty in performing arts is without boundaries and bias. Having experienced both eastern and western performing arts, my appreciation for Japanese culture particularly the beauty of its spirit and soul grew stronger. Though movements and agility are minimal, it is Nihon Buyo (Japanese classical dance) that can move and touch one’s heart profoundly. I hope the students participating my workshop will be able to see and feel things differently and add delicately nuanced ways of expressions to their already refined skill set.
- I will start teaching the very basic Japanese classical dance. Students will do a Greek tragedy performance themed around Oedipus Rex with Japanese classical dance. The sad and sorrowful feelings expressed by Japanese classical dance are truly unique. The characteristics of Japanese classical dance which derive from Kabuki and Noh convey delicate inner feeling, time and profound emotions with minimal movements. The less information and unnecessary moves you make, the more room you have for imagination which opens up infinite possibilities for depth of expression. By expressing various feelings with Japanese classical dance techniques, you will be able to broaden your horizon and see the world differently. When returning to your own genre, you will notice the change in your style.
- My workshop is themed around Oedipus Rex. The title of the workshop is Greek Tragedy through the eye of Japanese Dance. Students will be able to broaden their range of performance, approaching Oedipus Rex through expressions and techniques of Japanese classical dance.
- With my past experience as a ballet dancer, I presently interpret myself as a uniquely ‘modern buyoka’. My professional training has allowed me to learn and master the long-standing Japanese tradition, while subsequently allowing me to integrate this foundational style with an increasingly modern and Western-influenced interpretation. It is my hope that I share the nuance of these two styles – a style which stands at the cross point of East and West – preserving the tradition and pioneering into the new world. I believe you are free to express your true performing art only after you have gained the core basics. I am looking forward to seeing how much of the students’ potential I can awaken.