Meaning of people gathering together.
“The Echoes of Calling” project is the work of Akiko Kitamura, one of the leading choreographers in the Japanese contemporary dance scene, and Hiroaki Yokoyama, the music director of the project.
It started in August 2019 during a research trip to Ireland for the third international collaborative project organised and conducted by Kitamura. In Japan, a start-off event was held in February 2020. Through her research into Irish life and culture, Kitamura experienced how people gather in pubs to eat, drink, sing and dance. By incorporating this into the domestic performance, the project aimed for the audience to be able to relive the experience. Not a theatre, but an event space was intentionally chosen as the venue. Two musicians invited from Ireland, a Japanese dancer and the audience joined in to create a scene, bringing performers and audience together to share time as one. The event took place just after the first confirmed COVID cases in Japan were detected on a large cruise ship docked in Yokohama Port. The period that still casts a shadow over our lives.
The project was subsequently designed to last for multiple years. It was frantically kept going despite countless setbacks, such as travel restrictions, showing only the film adaption due to a ban of performances with the audience. We were only able to continue thanks to those who continued to support the project. Once again, we would like to express our sincere gratitude here.
These unexpected restrictions forced all rehearsals and meetings with the Irish-based dancers to be conducted online to produce the piece. This was a new challenge for the creators and casts, as it resulted in the dance film“Echoes of Calling – Encounter -“. It was streamed as part of Galway 2020’s online screening programme. One of the results of the ongoing project was that Mintesinot Wolde, one of the cast members, was able to perform and collaborate with the Galway performance. Other dancers and staff who appeared in the film also attended it. It was a great pleasure to finally meet them after several years of online communication.
“The Echoes of Calling” project is an international collaboration of artists from Ireland and Japan, located at the extremes of Eurasia, and also from Central Asia. The project has researched the life and culture handed down from one place to another, and has created dance works that emerge from dialogue with the people who pass on these traditions. By having the same members work together for several years on a production, including the rehearsal period, they were able to see things that were not visible at first. This was possible only through long-term international exchange, where people with different backgrounds respect and learn from each other. Furthermore, We have also made it a point to develop each artist’s own cultural background, intermingling the cultural background of the other with what we have experienced in person on the site. The Irish artists have had the opportunity to visit Japan three times as part of the project, but choreographer Akiko Kitamura and music director Hiroaki Yokoyama have not had the chance to visit the city since their research visit in 2019, so this tour was the first opportunity for the performers to visit Galway.
We visited Galway in late November, when Christmas light decorations were beginning to appear on the streets and strong winds and short squalls fell several times a day. Despite this harsh natural environment, the locals still gather in pubs after sundown to enjoy live music and keep the steps going. During the sunny days, musicians are seen performing everywhere in the city. We were able to see for ourselves the rich culture of dancing and singing close to their daily lives. The local people have already regained the ability to get together and live energetically, something we were forced to let go of as a result of pandemic. The atmosphere of real face-to-face interaction, rather than virtual online, was very pleasant.
There is one important thing that we performers were reminded of during the pandemic. That is that the artists on stage and the audience surrounding them become one through the exchange of invisible energy. I realised once again that this is something that can only be shared by people who gather at the same time and in the same place. The workshops and performances in Galway, as well as the after-talks and other opportunities for face-to-face exchange with many people, were an invaluable experience. It is no exaggeration to say that this visit has enabled the project, which was in a sense a one-winged flight, to expand its wings and take off on its own. I believe that the final production of the project, which will be staged in Tokyo in the spring of 2023, will draw on this valuable experience and, together with the cast members who will be visiting Japan from Ireland, will bring a further expansion of the performing arts to both stage and audience.