New National Theatre held a dance concert Afternoon of Fauns and Nymphs, a gala performance with six contemporary dance works by six pairs of dancers and six choreographers. An evening of diverse works, ranging from works by a dancer/choreographer at National Ballet of Japan to Canadian choreographer Crystal Pite.

Yuri Kimura and Takafumi Watanabe in Danae
© Takashi Shikama

The night opened with Danae, a Greek myth inspired piece choreographed by Tetuso Kaikawa, a dancer at the NBJ. Danae first premiered at an evening of young choreographers and has been revived twice. Zeus, with a burning desire for the princess Danae, transforms himself into golden rain in order to make love with her. Yuri Kimura embodied the delicate emotions of fear, hope, lust, curiosity and wrath with her long limbs and lyrical expression, eventually giving way to Takafumi Watanabe’s Zeus. This was the only erotic piece of this evening, but Kimura’s innocence and chastity gave a divine impression as golden confetti fell down on her.

Koki Fujimoto (guitar), Hana Sakai and Mirai Moriyama in Kasokeshi
© Takashi Shikama

Kasokeshi was created by Yasutake Shimaji (ex-Forsythe Company) and danced by Hana Sakai, Shimaji’s partner and a former Prima Ballerina at the National Ballet, and Mirai Moriyama, an actor as well as a contemporary dancer. As Koki Fujimoto’s guitar plays a strange rhythm and scratches, the two, clad in identical blue clothes and making Nijinsky’s Afternoon of a Faun-like movements, a comical atmosphere appears. Then Sakai goes into the wings of the stage and clashes into something there, with her getting mad at the staff and shouting, returning to the stage and they give a beautiful duet. A somewhat weird, laid-back piece, but it was fun.

Risako Ikeda and Kosuke Okumura in Butterfly
© Takashi Shikama

Butterfly by Motoko Hirayama was the climax of the first half. This powerful, spellbinding piece was created in 2005, then danced by Hirayama herself. A larva grows into a chrysalis and then a butterfly appears, the two dancers express the mysterious birth and growth of insects, their lives and deaths. Risako Ikeda and Kosuke Okumura, dancers from National Ballet, fall down on the floor and stands up multiple times, leap, fall, lift each other, sometimes in harmony and other times slipping off, a symbol of reincarnation and mortality. Ikeda, who usually dances princesses and soubrette roles, presents an entirely different side, powerful, intense and raw. She even lifts her male partner in her arms. Okumura, a princely dancer, is also stripped of his usual glamour in his insect existence.

Kaori Kagaya and Yuya Yoshizaki in Polar Sky
© Takashi Shikama

Polar Sky by Kaori Kagaya is based on Kyoka Izumi’s play Spirits of Another Sort, a love story between a princess and a falcon. Danced by Kagaya and Yuya Yoshizaki, it features guitar music composed and played by Masami Sakaide on stage (his appearance is as another character of the story), and although a short piece of 15 minutes, it feels an epic, large scale work. Lighting effects that create a path to the castle on the dark stage, the sound of guitar rhythm, the duet between the lovers is hauntingly beautiful and mysterious.

Un Yamada and Llon Kawai in Let's Do It!
© Takashi Shikama

Let’s Do It created by Un Yamada was the uplifting piece of the evening. Yamada and Llon Kawai, both cross-dressed, dance to the nostalgic music by Louis Armstrong and Cole Porter. They try to confess their love in the style of old Hollywood musicals but fail, although their mutual interactions are charming and funny. At the climax as Yamada gets on top of Kawai, Kawai’s skirt gets turned up and his legs are exposed, giving an effect that their bodies merge as one. The switching of gender in this piece casts a challenge to our conceptions of gender roles, that men should lead women and men should be taller and powerful than women.

Kenta Kojiri and Ema Yuasa in A Picture of You Falling
© Takashi Shikama

The night concluded with an excerpt from Crystal Pite’s A Picture of You Falling, danced by Ema Yuasa and Kenta Kojiri, both former dancers at Nederlands Dans Theater. Set in an everyday room, the pair’s gestures from daily life gradually transform into dance movements and the intensity between the narration and the movement creates a stunning and thrilling effect, as though a different dialogue is emerging from the two. Both Yuasa and Kojiri are superb interpreters, and their complicated emotions within their love affair transcends from their flowing movements, leaving the audience with a strong desire to see this again from the start.

All six works and performances were brilliant, but A Picture of You Falling was the cream of the crop. It showed the possibility and potential of contemporary dance, and how dance can touch people in these difficult times where dancers have to be coached via Zoom and live performances are a luxury.