“The Genealogy of the Shishi(Lion)”
Sanriku International Arts Festival in Roppongi Arts Night at Roppongi Hills Arena
Saturday, October 22, 2016 from 12- 1pm
This project manifests the image of the “Shishi (Lion)” that is born from within us, by performances of Usuzawa Shishi Odori (Deer Dance), Bali’s Barong Dance, Contemporary Dance, and Balinese dance. It involves the experiences of exchange between each artist and group.
The Sequence of our Exchanges
Between December 2014 and September 2015, five people from the JCDN program “We’re Gonna Go Learn in Tohoku!!”, dancers Miki Isojima and Masaharu Imazu, musicians Kazunari Abe and Motoko Sakurada, and Artist Nozomi Tanaka learned the Shishi Odori several times at the Usuzawa Shishi Odori Densyoukan at Ohtsuchi-cho, Iwate Prefecture (an area stricken by the 2011 Tsunami) and participated in its “Ohtsuchi Festival” in September.
• In December 2015, 7 people from the Usuzawa Shishi Odori visited Aceh, a Tsunami-stricken area, and Bali, a treasury of performing arts, and interacted with performance groups and artists from each area. In Bali, they observed the Barong dance performed for tourists at the Batubulan village and had cultural exchanges with the Barong dancer I Made Mahardika. They visited I ketut kodi, Singapadu and learned about aspects such as sociality, mentality, and physicality at a lecture workshop about the masked dance Topen. Also, at the Ubud Pengosekan region, they visited the studio of the Gamelan group 「Cudamani」who are touring vigorously internationally. There, with navigation by the group’s leader Dewa Berata, they observed a performance that re-enacts the daily practice by dancers from children to adults. As a present in return they danced the Shishi Odori, and they had a question and answer session about matters ranging from group management to the methodology of multi-generational transmission.
• In February 2016, Motoko Sakurada stayed in Ohtsuchi and conducted a preliminary investigation for a performance by conducting interviews and observing several parts of Ohtsuchi.
• In March 2016, there was a dance performance by the artists and the Usuzawa Shishi Odori at the conference for “We’re Gonna Go Learn in Tohoku!!” and the Sanriku International Arts Festival at the Japan Foundation in Tokyo.
• From August 26- 30, 2016, we conducted meetings and rehearsals for Usuzawa Shishi Odori and Barong dance in Bali.
o Three artists from Usuzawa Shishi Odori: Hifumi Higashitani,Takeo Ueno, Takashi Miura
o Three artists from Bali: I Made Mahardika and 2 dancer
o Gamelan Coordinator: Motoko Sakurada
o Videographer: Satoshi Kasuga
• On September 11, 2016, the Barong dance team (3 artists from Bali and 3 from Terang Bulan) that performed in the main program of the Sanriku International Arts Festival in Sakari/Ohfunato, visited the Usuzawa Shishi Odori Densyoukan and had a cultural exchange of dancing.
• From September 15- 19, 2016, the dancers of the Usuzawa Shishi Odori and Imazu, Isojima, Tanaka, Sakurada, Kasuga(film）had a meeting and carried out a rehearsal at the Ohtsuchi Usuzawa Shishi Odori densyoukan and participated in the Ohtsuchi Festival.
Based on the above exchanges, we composed a 1-hour performance, with some creation depending on the scenes and rehearsals, with the following following perspectives and summary as our axis.
♣ Expression thought to be the origin and basis of both Barong dance and Shishi Odori.
♣ Expression specific to the physicality of the dancers who experienced the Shishi Odori.
♣ Scenes featuring the unaltered performance of characteristic dances of Shishi Odori and Barong dance that are even performed now.
♣ Scenes in which each performing art opposes or harmonizes with the other.
♣ Scenes in which the whole of those written above are expressed in general.
For this program, exchanging opinions about the existence of culture, physicality and lineage, performing arts and dance was important in the same way as feeling each other out instinctively in meetings and rehearsals was for this project.
2. The Aspirations of Terang Bulan, head of the Gamelan performance
The holy Lion Barong dance from the treasury of performing arts that is Bali makes cultural exchange with artists from the Usuzawa Shishi Odori, which performance is remarkable even amidst the numerous captivating local performing arts in Ohtsuchi in Iwate prefecture. It would be my pleasure if our Gamelan performance could serve as a bridge between those two.
Also, for us, who are taking part as people from a different country on a different country’s soil, I think that searching together with those of that folk performing art for expression that will connect to the future will have a large significance.
The reason why I think this is that the performing arts activities of groups of enthusiasts in the cities is making another community, one that is different from the one based on close connections from blood lineage or local connections that has supported local and folk performing arts until now.
Why do people wish to belong to something, even in the midst of being busy with their lives and buried in information?
Then, I also always greatly feel the motion to create a place for expression, namely the festival, from the desire of these communities.
Why do we want to make expression? Why does society make us want to make expression?
I also feel that perhaps this motion might offer a turning point in some kind of developmental idea, regarding the localities that possess worries about the handing down of folk culture.
By all means, I would like to continue performing in exchange with various performance groups as well as exchanging opinions and having discussions with them.
Reflections from the Performers
“The Genealogy of the Lion” Direction, Composition, Musical Direction Motoko Sakurada
The performance of “The Genealogy of the Lion” was guided by a mysterious connection and made into a reality. I think that this connection in itself is an important factor, and I put together this performance by being conscious of contents that make the most of the existence, inspiration, and opinions of each performer who stands in 3 positions. The first is the traditional performing arts of Iwate’s Usuwaza Shishi Odori and Bali’s Lion Barong. The next is the Japanese Gamelan group Terang Bulan and the Balinese dancers who performed another country’s music culture and became a catalyst for the two traditional performing arts. Then, there are the artists and contemporary dancers who tried to create “something” from their relationship with the “Shishi (Lion).”
Japan’s “lion” and Bali’s “lion” became intertwined while they were each performed in the pure form in which they have been passed down, and they constructed one world as a result.
I personally experienced that in this performance they made something very hot rise from the depths of the performing arts raised from the relationships among people with many bonds that transcend generations. What is that hot something? It includes people’s prayers, gratitude, wishes, heart of requiem, thoughts that cherish their ancestors, a sense of fear and reverence towards supernatural existences and Nature. Also, the passion of giving birth to and presenting performing arts. The passion to continue and connect.
Continuing to hand down a tradition and creating something new may seem different at first glance, but perhaps there is no difference except for simply the sense of time. What doesn’t change is the impulse of arts and traditional performing arts, which is human beings trying to connect with something that surpasses themselves. I feel even more strongly that from now I want to take the time and pursue this theme further.
Roppongi Art Night 2016 Reflections
Usuzawa Shishi Odori Preservation Society Hideo Tohbai
The first time I met with the members of “We’re Gonna Go Learn in Tohoku!!” was the year before last, in 2014. About half a century ago, the custom common to local performing arts of “not letting in outsiders” was cast away, and the new attitude of welcoming people who visit from their own interest was embraced. This attitude is also a characteristic of Usuzawa. At this time as well, without thinking too deeply about its significance, we simply met them with a feeling of gratitude for coming from so far away.
However, we could not have dreamed that this would lead to “Sanriku International Arts Festival in Roppongi Arts Night, 2016”.
In 2015, we stayed in the same place, ate and slept together 2 times before the Ohtsuchi festival. In December, we were able to exchange our performing arts with those coming far away from Indonesia, the performing arts treasury of Bali and the Tsunami-stricken Aceh.
This year, in 2016, In the middle of practicing for September’s fall festival, the Barong dance team came and visited our Usuzawa Shishi Odori “Densyoukan,” and our exchange of performance received the applause of many people.
Then once again, professional dancers, musicians, and artists participated in the Ohtsuchi festival, and we spent a hard and fun time while sweating together, and we empathized with the breath of those who live together with the traditional culture of Sanriku.
“Roppongi Art Night 2016” was an extension of this. From the tight bonds forged with the many members of the Usuzawa Shishi Odori based on our exchanges with this program that had spanned 2 years, we could write a new brilliant page to this dance’s history of 400 years, in which our only regrets were that only a limited number of people could participate.
These accomplishments are tangible and intangible, as well as immeasurable, but I could list them as the following:
• We were able to successfully complete it and were blessed with the chance to have activities that transcended nationality and will be a big chance for revitalization from now.
• Children and youth were able to realize their confidence and pride, and our human network was expanded.
• We were able to re-affirm our respect to our predecessors who left local performing arts which we can also call a traditional culture that is highly regarded in the world.
I would like to offer my heartfelt gratitude once again to all of those involved until today.
In this project, I was in charge of the contemporary costume design and production. Until now, I had been creating paintings based on documentation I had done in regional areas, and I had also taken up local performing arts as a motif. That’s because I could feel the possibility in visually representing that land through the image of local performing arts, since its costumes and movement have a compelling meaning and its own place, and these things have become a “form” which has been inherited through several generations. However, it was my first time trying to “make costumes.” When I thought about where I should start, I felt that I had to think about what this project was aiming for and what kind of place it was born from. From Tohbai’s words I got the impression they are always thinking about what they can do through the performing arts for the children that are raised in that place. On the other hand, I think there is something that artists can do because they are an existence like grass, with no roots. In the discussion with Miki Isojima and Masaharu Imazu, someone said that “local performing arts has a form, but our dance has no form.” From these words, I felt that dancers are carrying out a practice as if they are diving to the origins of what has become a “form.” While there is a foundation in the place, that is a creative action that brings forth a new meaning. This project’s practice had many things to learn and many things to reflect on, and I hope that the place of expression connects to the place of discussion.
Masaharu Imazu（contemporary dancer）
I participated in the project as a contemporary dancer.
It was an important opportunity in which we could have many people see a cultural fusion of Gamelan (Indonesia), Barong dance (Bali), Usuzawa Shishi (Iwate), and contemporary dance. Art is something that comes into contact with people’s eyes and blossoms in the heart.
The theme of this year was “Turn, Run, Try and do it.” How can that be conveyed with art, and how can the door to the future be opened from it? From experiencing something, coming into contact with things and watching people become totally focused on something, I felt that this is where dance was born.
This is a personal matter, but before I came something happened, and I thought about what do people, who are standing at a crossroads, think when they dance. I thought that the people of Usuzawa, who received unprecedented damage from the tsunami, were incomparable to the people of Bali. But, we engaged in art in that kind of circumstance and have been making expression. Humans are living things with emotions.
There is art that we can bring forth especially because we are humans, and I personally felt that it is something expressed from among our emotions. Isn’t the collaborative dance by everyone in this project also something that was born under various conditions (era, ethnicity, heart)?
I think that I want it to be art that overflows with love, guided by a warm heart, becomes a huge tree and connects the past to the future.
This is the last thing, but I earnestly wish that the heart of art expands to everyone who came to the performance, and I say this with gratitude for everyone who participated in this project.
Miki Isojima（contemporary dancer）
In this project, we aimed for a relationship that was not a so-called collaboration; and now that it has ended, and some time has passed, there is the question of how far we made it.
In this project I, who am dancing contemporary dance, a dance that continues to change with the times without having a form or some type of category, was able to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the performance of Gamelan, Barong dance, and the Usuzawa Shishi Odori, which has created a form together with the eras and time.
How can we stand face to face with something that has a form? I think that even though we worried over it and talked about it, in the end the large end of this vector was vague. We were talking about it before we began the project and since we began it, but after all we couldn’t decide where we were heading to, and when finally rehearsals started we got positive feedback when we picked out our (the contemporary dancers’ and Gamelan players’) parts. Even so, when other lions came about, where we were heading to became blurry and we lost our way, and the whole thing became weaker. This is definitely a regretful thing and also a frustrating thing, and at the same time it furthers our imagination about what we could and should make happen from now.
The co-existence of that which has a form and that which does not.
Rather than what we want to show, the question is probably what we want to do. Because of this, I strongly think that to bring forth new time, we should value our time to make our attempts and talk to each other with care, and we should have a proper quantity of heat that does not fall behind each person’s time.
Gamelan players Terang Bulan Saori Tanaka
There are words that left an impression on me in my practice with the three artists that came to Japan from Bali.
“In Bali, at religious festivals we play to entertain the gods. For that purpose, it is important that we first have the intention to enjoy the playing ourselves.”
They said this to encourage us, as we were anxious about this first attempt, but I thought again how very superb their way of thinking and attitude towards their performing art is.
At the last rehearsal before the performance, I saw the Usuzawa Shishi Odori in costume for the first time. Even though the Shishi Odori and Barong dance are performing arts from different countries and were cultivated in different regions that are far apart from each other, I was shocked at how I didn’t feel like anything was out of place when they were put one after another. Then, I was blown away by the intensity when they faced off with each other.
Because there is almost nothing like the “Ma (interval)” that expands and contracts in between the beats, at first I was perplexed by the difference in each other’s timing in the collaboration with the Shishi Odori. There was a growing sense that we came closer to each other’s sound as rehearsals progressed, and I think that we were able to make a space of solidarity with each other at the performance. Together with the intensity of the lions, I believe that the venue was enwrapped in a air that could not be thought to be Roppongi.
Then, it seems that this became a very wonderful experience for the three artists that came to Japan from Bali. Through this performance, デワ・ライ, a drum player and composer, said that he received a lot of inspiration for the future pieces he will make.
I think that this kind of exchange is great stimulation for each other’s performing arts. I hope that it can be continued in the future.
Barong dancer (Tail) Dewa Gde Guna Arta
First, I would like to thank the organizer and director Motoko Sakurada, who invited us to Japan and gave us the opportunity to dance Barong and participate in the collaboration.
At first, this collaboration began as a process with very little time to practice, and I was very anxious.
However, after I arrived in Japan, that anxiety almost entirely vanished. The Gamelan group Terang Bulan have mastered excellent technique in Gamelan performance, already perform at the speed of Balinese players, and I could dance easily as a Barong dancer. Also, we received many different kinds of help while the three of us from Bali were staying in Japan, and I felt very happy in my two weeks in Japan, as if I had made a new family.
For me, this collaboration was a big success. I hope that I can do this kind of performance again.
With all my gratitude.
Barong dancer (head) Made Mahardika
In this collaborative piece, I experienced the encounter of two performing arts, the Barong that represents Indonesia’s Bali and the Shishi that represents Japan, for the first time. Also, it was a very happy and blessed experience that we could make a performance together with Japan’s Balinese dancers and contemporary dancers.
The encounter of these two performing arts connected the two together and created one big space as a whole. This was because we could make Japanese sense and Balinese sense into one from the performances of the Gamelan group Terang Bulan and the Shishi Odori.
In this way, I think that this performance was able to achieve great success.
Gamelan player Dewa Putu Rai
I feel happiness in my heart about and greatly miss the collaboration I had in Japan. This is because I was moved by the extreme closeness of Shishi Odori and the Gamelan group Terang Bulan with Bali’s performing arts culture, and they were tied very strongly to my own sensation.
Many similarities between the performing arts of Japan and Bali could be seen, and it proved that the two performing arts can become one on this stage.
Also, I cannot forget my feelings of gratitude for the contemporary dancers that gave me an experience that would have been difficult to have on my own.
And then, I would like to deeply thank Motoko Sakurada, the director who gave us much knowledge and skill, and perfectly moved along the process of creating this performance from the beginning, its execution, and after it finished.
Finally, regarding this collaboration, we were not separate but instead became completely one, filled with art and the performing arts, and I feel that everyone could share one emotion and sensation, as well as friendship.