BY MORAG PHILLIPS
YOSHITAKA SUZUKI has stunning stage presence.
He hails from Akita City. The prefecture of Akita is to the North West on Japans main island of Honshu. Surrounded by mountains, it is well known for winter sports and the famous Akita dog. It is steeped in traditions and its this influence that Yoshitaka brings to his performance.
This is not traditional Japanese dance as we know it. Suzuki who trained in Japan, but is now London based fuses his own style of Jazz with traditional dance to portray echoes of his homeland. His movements are at times odd but in others extremely beautiful. In his first improvisation you feel you can see the leaves fluttering in the wind and the blossom falling only to be caught in his expressive hands. Air, light, water and the soil are explored. It is indeed mesmerising to watch.
His next dance includes the use of fan, that he executes with great skill. He slices through the air with it in a Gyrotonic fluidity. He then whips out his sword (Katana) and we get to see the Hanekawa Kenbyashi; a 400-year-old dance and celebrates victory in war.
What I liked about this show was its surprises. While Yoshitaka was changing costume we were treated to a very interesting piece of film describing the traditional Namahage, celebrated on New Years Eve. Fearsome straw creatures with ferocious masks come down from the mountains to enter houses to bring luck, protection and also to warn ‘cry babies’ and naughty people.
Suzuki then treats us to our own scary entrance dressed in in the garb of the Namahage. He dances round the stage and into the audience.
The lovely thing about this performance is the use of media to explain what is going on. Understanding the story enhances enjoyment of the show. Also there is a short interval where Saki is brought out and some delicate smoked pickles. Not to everyone’s taste, but I enjoyed it.
We resume the performance with a short film. Yoshitaka then dances his final dance, this time an Expression of ‘Events in Akita’. In this we see more of his unusual Jazz fusion.
As the audience exited Yoshitaka stood at door and bowed to every single member of the audience. Arigato (thank you) he repeated again and again.
Well Arigato to you Yoshitaka.