Japan Society New York City Announces 2014-15 Performing Arts Season with Music, Dance,Theater & More

From a media release:


New York, NY -
Japan Society announces its 2014-2015 Performing Arts Season, featuring works by visionary artists in music, dance and theater. In this season, the Performing Arts Program proudly presents two large-scale series of events: in music, The Shamisen Sessions in Fall 2014; and in Spring 2015, Stories from the War: Reflecting on WWII through Theater, a series of theater events marking the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII; in addition to long-running programs such as the Contemporary Dance Showcase, Annual Play Reading Series, a commission premiere and related events.

The season commences in September with The Shamisen Sessions, four distinct music events centered on Japan's unique centuries-old three-stringed instrument, from modern and experimental interpretations to world-class traditional explorations. The Shamisen Sessions, Vols. 1-4 offer a rare look at the versatility and evolution of one of Japan's most enduring instruments through distinct performances by star shamisen players, supported by related events and workshops spanning September - December 2014.

In dance this season, Japan Society presents the Contemporary Dance Showcase in January 2015, marking the 16th installment set to run in conjunction with The Association of Performing Arts Presenters' (APAP) annual New York City conference. In June, the Society presents the New York Premiere of Kota Yamazaki/Fluid hug-hug's OQ, a Japan Society commission.

To honor the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII, Japan Society presents three timely and topical theater offerings: the plays Zero Hour: Tokyo Rose's Last Tape (January) and Yokohama Rosa (April), and a rare double bill offering plays from the modern and traditional noh repertoires, New and Traditional Noh: Holy Mother in Nagasaki and Kiyotsune (May). Additionally in theater, Japan Society delivers the 11th installment of the Play Reading Series: Contemporary Japanese Plays in English Translation with Dancing with the Bird, written by Seiji Nozoe, translated and directed by James Yaegashi (March). Productions and related events and workshops are detailed below. All events are at Japan Society, located at 333 East 47th Street. For tickets or more information, please visit www.japansociety.org, or call 212-715-1258.  Tickets are available to Japan Society members now by calling or visiting the box office; tickets are available to the general public beginning Monday, August 11.

SEPTEMBER 2014 - JUNE 2015

The Shamisen Sessions
September - December 2014, as detailed below.

From traditional stages to contemporary rock, pop and jazz concerts, the three-stringed shamisen has forged art and entertainment culture in Japan for centuries and continues to shape new spheres of world music today.  These four sessions spotlight some of the most sought-after shamisen musicians in Japan performing the full gamut of today's musical styles.  The series includes: Hiromitsu Agatsuma + Akiko Yano (September 27), Yumiko Tanaka's shamisen improvisational accompaniment for Teinosuke Kinugasa's silent film Crossroads (November 15), A Salute to Tradition (November 20) and the Okinawan folk/pop duo SAKISHIMA meeting (December 12). 

Purchase tickets to two The Shamisen Sessions events and save $4, to three and save $6, and to all four and save $8 (available for general and member-priced tickets).  Discount available by visiting or calling the box office at (212) 715-1258 or by downloading the Ticket Order Form from www.japansociety.org/performingarts

The Shamisen Sessions, Vol. 1Hiromitsu Agatsuma + Akiko Yano
Saturday, September 27 at 7:30pm (followed by a MetLife Meet-the-Artists Reception)

Virtuosic rock, pop and jazz player Hiromitsu Agatsuma on tsugaru-shamisen (the shamisen which originated in Northern Japan) and musical luminary pianist/singer-songwriter Akiko Yano perform together for the first time ever. Agatsuma's fast and aggressive playing style is showcased alongside Yano's engaging vocals and prodigious piano skills.  The two are united by their inimitable ability to transform the sentimental strains of Japan's beloved folk songs (min'yo), a genre each artist has explored extensively throughout his/her career, into compelling jazz/pop tunes. 

The Shamisen Sessions, Vol. 2
Crossroads (Jujiro), a silent film by Teinosuke Kinugasa,
with shamisen improvisational accompaniment by Yumiko Tanaka
Saturday, November 15 at 7:30pm

Internationally active experimental shamisen musician Yumiko Tanaka provides a thrilling improvisational soundscape to the silent film Crossroads (Jujiro, 1928). This audacious film by Cannes Film Festival Palme d'Or winner Teinosuke Kinugasa (1896-1982) depicts the love between a poor brother and sister, and features hallucinatory imagery and boundary-pushing German Expressionism-inspired set design.  The program is held as part of Japan Society's 2014 Monthly Film Series, The Dark Side of the Sun: John Zorn on Japanese Cinema, curated by musical maverick and film and Japanese culture aficionado John Zorn. 

Crossroads (Jujiro):  1928.  87 min.  35mm, b&w, silent.  Directed by Teinosuke Kinugasa.  With Junosuke Bando, Akiko Chihaya, Yukiko Ogawa, Ippei Sohma, Kazuo Hasegawa.

Monthly Film Series The Dark Side of the Sun: John Zorn on Japanese Cinema begins October 18, 2014.

The Shamisen Sessions, Vol. 3
A Salute to Tradition
Thursday, November 20 at 7:30pm
(followed by a MetLife Meet-the-Artists Reception)

Immerse yourself in the diverse styles of traditional shamisen music.  The instrument, originally from China, reached Japan in the 16th century, where it underwent changes in shape, size and sound.  The three-stringed shamisen has since become a central element in Japan's unique performing arts and entertainment culture including kabuki and bunraku theaters, salon, folk and vaudeville music and more.  This evening showcases three major traditional shamisen musical styles-- nagauta (kabuki), gidayu (bunraku) and jiuta (tatami salon concerts) as performed by Japan's preeminent shamisen players and chanters, including a Living National Treasure and a traditional nihon buyo dancer. Artists include: Fujii Hirokazu (jiuta chanter/shamisen), Takemoto Komanosuke (gidayu hanter, Living National Treasure), Tsuruzawa Yumi aka Yumiko Tanaka (gidayu shamisen), Imafuji Chotatsuro (nagauta shamisen), Kineya Katsujuro (nagauta shamisen), Kineya Mitsuya (nagauta chanter) and Hanayagi Genkuro (nihon buyo traditional dancer).  Program includes: Kanjincho (nagauta style), Zangetsu (jiuta style), Tamagawa (nagauta style) and Komochi Yamamba (gidayu style).

Pre-Performance Lecture led by Dr. K. Natasha Foreman, Lecturer in Musicology and Ethnomusicology at Wayne State University.  One hour before curtain.  FREE and open to ticket holders only.
Related Workshop: Shamisen Workshop with Imafuji Chotatsuro and Nihon Buyo Workshop with Hanayagi Genkuro

The Shamisen Sessions, Vol. 4
Sakishima meeting, folk/pop duo from Okinawa
Friday, December 12 at 8:30pm / Cash bar opens at 7:00pm

For the final concert of the The Shamisen Sessions, Japan Society presents the smooth music of the Okinawan folk/pop duo SAKISHIMA meeting.  Duo members Yukito Ara on sanshin (Okinawan shamisen) and vocals and Isamu Shimoji on guitar and vocals serenade the crowd with tunes that blend the sounds and traditions of Okinawa, Japan's southernmost islands, with popular Western riffs and beats.  This cabaret-style concert takes place in Japan Society's Murase Room just off the lobby, where food and drink will be available for purchase. 

16th Contemporary Dance Showcase: Japan + East Asia
Friday, January 9 at 7:30pm (followed by a MetLife Meet-the-Artists Reception)
Saturday, January 10 at 7:30pm

The Dance Showcase, which since 1996 has "opened a window onto the East Asian scene" (The New York Times) returns with a standout lineup of groundbreaking artists from the other side of the globe.  This year's showcase includes from Japan: Nobuyuki Hanabusa's group enra  ("mesmerizing ... versatile ... fantastic" -The Huffington Post) performing Newton, an out-of-this-world amalgamation of motion graphics and choreography; Mikiko Kawamura's street style solo Alphard set to a bold soundscape with J-pop and classical music ("a visual feast" -Vietnam Breaking News); and Marmont, by Kaori Seki ("one to watch in the contemporary dance scene" - MadameFigaro.com) in which bodies morph into nebulous creature-like positions.  From Taiwan: I-Fen Tung's fresh duo How to Say ("astonishing" - LaCultureria.com), a piece that grapples with communication through words and dance; and Shang-Chi Sun's Traverse, in which graceful martial arts-like movements oscillate between combat speed and tranquility ("extraordinary...unique charisma" -Leipzig Almanach). 

Stories from the War: Reflecting on WWII through Theater
January - May, 2015, as detailed below.

This Society-wide series, Stories from the War: Reflecting on WWII through a Contemporary Lens, which centers around three theatrical programs and includes a film series, lectures and family programs, encourages reconsideration and reflection on the events, figures and issues surrounding the war and its impact on the people of the United States and Japan from a 2014 vantage point.  WWII marks an important time in the shared histories of the U.S. and Japan and the seven decades since its end have been shaped by reconciliation and friendship.  The theater series includes: Miwa Yanagi's Zero Hour: Tokyo Rose's Last Tape (January 29-31), Michiko Godai's Yokohama Rosa (April 25-26) and New and Traditional Noh: Holy Mother in Nagasaki and Kiyotsune (May 14-16).

Miwa Yanagi's Zero Hour: Tokyo Rose's Last Tape
North American Premiere
Thursday, January 29, 7:30pm (followed by MetLife Meet-the-Artists Reception)
Friday, January 30, 7:30pm
Saturday, January 31, 7:30pm

The center piece of the Spring WWII series is Miwa Yanagi's Zero Hour: Tokyo Rose's Last Tape, which recounts the story of "Tokyo Rose," the young Japanese-American woman who was stranded in Japan during WWII, forced to serve as a broadcaster for a propaganda radio program controlled by the Japanese Imperial Army and subsequently tried for treason by the United States.  Seventy years later, this historic incident is brought to life through a visually stunning theatrical whodunit conceived, written and directed by internationally renowned visual artist Miwa Yanagi (one of the featured artists in Japan Society's 2011 gallery exhibition Bye Bye Kitty!! Between Heaven and Hell in Contemporary Japanese Art).  Brimming with iconic imagery from her rich body of photographic work, Zero Hour tells the multi-layered story of a woman caught between two nations during the war.  This marks Yanagi's North American debut as a theater artist. Performed in English and Japanese with English subtitles

Japan Society-produced and organized North American tour includes: The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Washington, DC; Asian Arts & Culture Center at Towson University, Towson, MD; Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre, Toronto, Canada; REDCAT (Roy and Edna Disney / CalArts Theater), Los Angeles, CA.

Michiko Godai's Yokohama Rosa
North American Premiere
Saturday, April 25 at 7:30pm (followed by a MetLife Meet-the-Artists Reception)
Sunday, April 26 at 2:30pm

Continuing the WWII theater series, legendary actress Michiko Godai presents Yokohama Rosa, an intimate portrait of a woman whose life was forever changed by WWII.  In this original one-woman tragicomedy inspired by the sight of a mysterious old woman frequently observed on the streets of Yokohama and known by locals as "Merii-san," Godai transforms on stage from a vulnerable young woman to a confident prostitute out on the streets, to a lovesick middle-aged woman and finally, to a frail but compassionate lady, who is homeless.  Performed in Yokohama annually on the anniversary of the end of WWII in Japan, Godai's captivating piece reveals the war's deep and lasting consequences on the most personal level.  Performed in Japanese with English subtitles

New and Traditional Noh, featuring Holy Mother in Nagasaki and Kiyotsune
Thursday, May 14 at 7:30pm (followed by a MetLife Meet-the-Artists Reception)
Friday, May 15 at 7:30pm
Saturday, May 16 at 7:30pm

Japan Society presents a rare double bill offering plays from the modern and traditional noh repertoires.  In keeping with the theme of the Society's WWII series, the evening features the poignant new play Holy Mother in Nagasaki in which a pilgrim is told about the legend of a woman who appeared to console the victims of the atomic bomb, surmised to have been the Virgin Mary herself.  As a companion piece, the evening features Kiyotsune, one of the centuries-old masterpieces by Zeami, in which a grieving widow meets her warrior husband in a dream to learn of his final battle.  These two complementary plays, led by renowned noh actor Kanji Shimizu of the celebrated Tessen-kai Noh Theater Association, round out the Society's WWII series, illustrating that the tragedies of war are timeless and borderless. Performed in Japanese with English subtitles

Play Reading Series: Contemporary Japanese Plays in English Translation
Dancing with the Bird written by Seiji Nozoe, directed by James Yaegashi
Monday, March 9 at 7:30pm

For the 11th installation in this annual series that aims to introduce New York-based actors/directors to contemporary and topical Japanese theater artists and plays, the Society presents Dancing with the Bird, a Hitchcock-esque cliffhanger that describes a young woman whose hair is stuck in a fan nearly eight feet in the air, and the conversation that ensues with a man appearing to come to her rescue.

Dancing with the Bird is written by Kishida Kunio Award-winning playwright/director Seiji Nozoe of Japan's Haegiwa theater company whose plays are known for their amusing portrayal of the inner self within unusual but convincing realities.  New York-based director, actor and filmmaker James Yaegashi translates the play and leads a cast of American actors in this minimalist three-person play that unleashes a world of emotion.  Playwright Seiji Nozoe joins in a post-performance conversation with

Kota Yamazaki/Fluid hug-hug's OQ
New York premiere; Japan Society commission
Friday, June 5  at 7:30pm
Saturday, June 6 at 7:30pm

Japan Society presents the New York premiere of a new work by New York-based Bessie Award-winning choreographer Kota Yamazaki, entitled OQ (okyu is the phonetic reading of the Japanese word for "palace").  Inspired by ritual poetry readings held at the Japanese Imperial Palace, Yamazaki's OQ features dancers from diverse cultural and dance backgrounds including Western contemporary, butoh, hip-hop and Jamaican dance.  Within a space designed by New York's award-winning architect collective SO-IL (founders: Florian Idenburg, the Netherlands and Jing Liu, China) that complements the dancers' fluid motions, Yamazaki creates a palace with its very own rituals and customs. 

Observer tickets may be available for workshops after participant tickets are sold out.

Shamisen Workshop with Imafuji Chotatsuro
In conjunction with The Shamisen Sessions Vol. 3
Friday, November 21 from Noon to 2:30pm

The shamisen is one of the most important and versatile instruments in Japanese traditional music.  Imafuji Chotatsuro, a most sought-after nagauta (the style developed for kabuki accompaniment) shamisen player, leads a workshop that introduces the traditional Japanese pentatonic scale and special shamisen playing techniques.  Max 12 participants.  Some string instrument-playing experience required.
Tickets: $48/$42 Japan Society members

Shamisen + Nihon Buyo Workshop package: $96/$86 JS members. Discount available by visiting or calling the box office at (212) 715-1258 or by downloading the Ticket Order Form from japansociety.org/performingarts

Nihon Buyo Workshop with Hanayagi Genkuro
In conjunction with The Shamisen Sessions Vol. 3
Friday, November 21 from 3:00pm to 5:00pm

Experience Japan's traditional kabuki dance with rising-star nihon buyo dancer Hanayagi Genkuro.  In this workshop, participants learn a variety of typical character movements (including male, female and animal roles) using fans and tenugui towels as props. Max 15 participants.  Some movement-based professional performance experience required. Participants must wear socks and activewear (no jeans).
Tickets: $54/$48 Japan Society members

Shamisen + Nihon Buyo Workshop package: $96/$86 JS members. Discount available by visiting or calling the box office at (212) 715-1258 or by downloading the Ticket Order Form from japansociety.org/performingarts
Noh Workshop and Demonstration with Yamai Tsunao
Sunday, February 8  from 11:00am to 4:00pm

Chosen this year as a "Japan Cultural Envoy" by the Agency for Cultural Affairs of the Japanese Government, noh actor Yamai Tsunao returns to Japan Society for a full-day workshop on noh theater's stylized movement and vocalization.   A member of the Komparu school of noh, Yamai is active in bringing the noh tradition to audiences in Japan and abroad.  Workshop participants will have the opportunity to chant an excerpt from the noh play Takasago, learn basic moves from Hagoromo and try on costumes and masks.  The workshop concludes with a special collaborative presentation with Yamai and pianist Kentaro Kihara from Japan.  Max 25 participants.  Some dance experience preferred.  Participants must wear socks and activewear. Tickets: $120/$100 Japan Society members - Tickets include a bento box lunch with the artists.

Butoh/Movement Workshop with Kota Yamazaki
In conjunction New York premiere OQ
Saturday, May 30 from Noon to 2:30pm

New York-based Japanese choreographer Kota Yamazaki teaches the somatic movement techniques that he has developed out of his training in butoh and Noguchi Gymnastics.  In this workshop, Yamazaki offers a series of exercises that guide participants in the composition of renga collaborative poems through movement.  These poems act as a source of inspiration for his newest work OQ. Max 20 participants.  All levels welcome.  Participants must wear activewear (no jeans).  Tickets: $30/$25 Japan Society members


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