“La Bayadère – Nation of Illusion”. Noism, Japan

The Alexandrinsky Theatre
“La Bayadère – Nation of Illusion”. Noism, Japan

The ballet programme of the festival opened on the stage of the Alexandrinsky Theatre on November 21 with La Bayadère – Nation of Illusion, performed by the Japanese company Noism, which was founded in 2004 in the city of Niigata. The company’s name draws attention to the fact that art is sometimes too obsessed with creating a new method (a new “ism”). Its founder,  and choreographer of this La Bayadère,  Jo Kanamori – who is also a disciple of the late Maurice Béjart – is not seeking to invent a new ‘ism’ (hence the name “no-ism”), but prefers rather to investigate existing methodologies. Quality of production here is placed much higher than any principle of genre originality.

As choreographer, Kanamori still defines the genre of his La Bayadère as a dramatic ballet, but emphasises equivalence in the dramatic interplay of its performing artists, scenography, decor and costumes. The stage director for the action is the celebrated playwright Hirata Oriza.  Music for the performance is based on the original score of Ludwig Minkus, with the addition of musical material created by the Japanese composer Yasuhiro Kasamatsu.

«I did not try to demonstrate disintegration on stage; rather, I tried to show the moment when something collapses in the inner world of a person, when old values have collapsed. I hope that viewers will look at today’s society through the prism of such an actual history – one that has created a space of illusion»

from an interview with the choreographer Jo Kanamori in  Theater Times

The story unfolds on the grassy plains of the Empire of Maranshu. This “Nation of Illusion” is seen through the shifting memories of one old man, and traces the course of its collapse following a terrible conflict of politics, religion, and race. Through the story of this collapse, the voices of people who once lived beyond the frontiers of history and memory now reach out to ask questions of those of us alive today.

The main character of the story, the dancing girl Miran, is played by Noism’s leading dancer, Sawako Iseki. The part of Miran’s lover, the warrior Bator, is danced by Satoshi Nakagawa, and that of the mystery woman Poyan, who holds the key to the story, is danced by Yuko Ishihara. Led by these 3 dancers, 20 members of the main company Noism1 and the trainee company Noism2 take part in the performance. In addition, this production features guest appearances by 3 actors from Shizuoka Performing Arts Centere (SPAC): Tsuyoshi Kijima, Miki Takii and Shunsuke Noguchi. In all, professionals from many areas have joined forces to produce a work in which the genres of dance and drama intertwine.

RYUTOPIA Niigata City Performing Arts Centre
Known as RYUTOPIA, the Niigata City Performing Arts Centre was founded in October 1998 as a hub for the performing arts and as such it offers a varied range of music, theatre, dance, and traditional Japanese Noh plays in the heart of Niigata City. Within its egg-shaped structure, designed by architect Itsuko Hasegawa, the Center consists of 3 halls made specifically for the performance of classical concerts, theatre and Noh plays, in addition to 2 multi-purpose studios and 8 rehearsal rooms. The performance halls boast superb facilities and expert theatrical stage staff throughout. RYUTOPIA aims to be a venue for the arts that fully meets the expectations of both audience and performers alike, contributing to an appreciation of the performing arts as a whole while continuing to create and introduce new theatrical works both to Japan and to countries abroad through its residential dance company “Noism”. An artistic symbol of Niigata City, RYUTOPIA is committed to both global and domestic audiences, with a specific mission to enrich its own regional culture.

Noism Artistic Director Jo Kanamori
Kanamori is a director, choreographer, and dancer. He is the artistic director of the RYUTOPIA Niigata City Performing Arts Centre’s Dance Division and its resident dance company Noism. When he was 17, Kanamori moved to Europe by himself, where he studied under Maurice Béjart and others. He made his début as director and choreographer aged 20, while a member of the Nederlands Dans Theater. After a decade spent working with European dance companies, he returned to Japan. In 2004 he set up Noism, Japan’s first dance company to be resident in a theatre. Since 2014 he has advised the city of Niigata on arts policy. He has received many prizes, including the Minister of Education Award for Fine Arts in 2007 and the Niigata Nippo Culture Award in 2008.

Noism = no-ism
“In the 20th century, there was so much experimentation – research and study were done in all different art forms, and they gave birth to many ‘isms’. But here in the 21st century, our aim should not be to find another specific new “ism” that will then make us deny some other “ism” its possibilities. Instead we at Noism aim for no-ism. By not having any specific “ism”, we accept and re-examine those different ‘isms’ that our predecessors came up with in the past, and in doing so aim to find the right tools for creating, in each time and space, a ‘high quality event’, rather than one which is ostentatiously ‘original’.

Photos: © Evgeny Pronin


Photos © Mark Olich