split flow & Holistic Strata
by Catherine Blanch.
Moving between the pixilation of light and dark, choreographer and dancer Hiroaki Umeda uses cutting edge digital multimedia and soundscapes to create a truly magical performance experience unlike anything you may have previously witnessed. One of the leading figures in the Japanese avant-garde art scene, Hiroaki has mesmerised festival and theatre audiences worldwide as he explores and presents new languages of physical dance bathed in ambiguous light and shade with his solo pieces that have included Haptic (2008), Adapting For Distortion (2008), Holistic Strata (2011) and split flow (2013).
Adding composer, lighting designer, scenographer and visual artist to his skillset, we speak with Hiroaki Umeda via email. Although this is not his first visit in Australia, this is Hiroaki’s first time to Adelaide and the OzAsia Festival.
Being two individual pieces, we ask how audiences will be able to distinguish between split flow and then Holistic Strata as they move from one to the other.
“Holistic Strata is more of a visual piece than a dance piece,” he begins. “I would say the piece is a visual installation with a human body. I designed all the projection images as part of the choreography. split flow is more of a ‘dance’ piece with lighting design, focused more on movement of human body and fine texture of the space.”
A world-renown physical dancer, you move between gentle to violent, distorting the line between sound and space. What was the inspiration to create to create a show bathed in pixelated light and dark?
“At one moment, I came to an idea that you cannot see dance without light. So, I realised how important lighting was in dance pieces. In other words, lighting can transform or even eliminate dance. That is how I started to choreograph visual images.”
How many forms of multimedia are used within your two pieces and how do you incorporate them together?
“I use light, sound and dance,” Hiroaki says. “One is using video projection and the other one is using laser light. All the media I use in the pieces are part of my choreography. So they are like different instruments of an orchestra to make a song.”
How do the senses of your audience ‘cope’ with the soundscapes and visual sensations? Has anyone ever felt it was an overload? Or it is done in such a way that audiences are able to immerse themselves as if they were part of the performance?
“The sound in my piece is probably not considered as music,” he replies. “It is sound. The video projection is not image, it is more of lighting. I use sound and light as physical stimulation, so I have to push human sensory custom a little more than usual. That is why for some people it may seem too strong.”
You have been touring these pieces around the world. What have the reactions been, and how, if at all, do they differ between countries and cultures?
“People who want stories or meaning or people who have specific dance taste wouldn’t enjoy my works so much,” Hiroaki says. “But, those who are open to different art styles would enjoy them. Recently I perform more in digital music festivals than in dance festivals. I was surprised to find out that people in the music field enjoy my works very much.”
Working with dancers of distinct physical backgrounds, 2009 saw Hiroaki Umeda begin a ten-year commissioned project [Sweden] called ‘Superkinesis’ where he explores kinetic languages within movement by tuning into the subtle voices and sounds of the surrounding environment, which are perceived only by an acute sensorial receptor referred to as ‘dancers’. As Hiroaki will be presenting two of his creations in one performance, we ask if there is meaning behind both split flow and Holistic Strata.
“There is no story or meaning behind either of the works,” he suggests. “What I would like for audiences to get is to ‘experience’ the pieces.”
What have you heard of Adelaide Festival Centre’s OzAsia Festival?
“It’s not what I’ve heard, but what I’ve seen,” Hiroaki says. “I attended the opening reception of the installations, and I found that the festival was really communicated with the local people there. So I felt that the festival has a really intimate relationship with the local audiences.”
Much like Hiroaki with his own audiences, we suspect.
Hiroaki Umeda performs split flow & Holistic Strata at Dunstan Playhouse, Adelaide Festival Centre, at various times, on Tue 27 Sep until Wed 28 Sep.
Book at BASS on 131 246 and bass.net.au or ozasia.com.au. Click HERE for teaser and to purchase your tickets.
Click HERE for your chance to win one of three double passes to see split flow & Holistic Strata at Dunstan Playhouse on Wed 28 Sep.
Cover image courtesy of Marui Yamaguchi
Centre image courtesy of S20