Japan Society Contemporary Dance Festival, Japan Society, NYC, Japan, dance, contemporary dance, Butoh, Akira Kasai, Kuan-Hsiang Liu, Goblin Party, East Asia, performance art

Contemporary Dance Festival: Japan + East Asia

Contemporary Dance Festival: Japan + East Asia

Friday, January 4 and Saturday, January 5 at 7:30 p.m.

Japan Society – 333 E. 47th Street (between 1st and 2nd Avenues)

Admission: $30/$25 Japan Society members

Japan Society’s Contemporary Dance Festival: Japan + East Asia brings groundbreaking artists from the other side of the globe to New York audiences. Presented as part of Japan Society’s 2018-2019 Performing Arts Season, the Contemporary Dance Festival celebrates defining artists of the present moment. This year the festival features three revelatory and robust works from Japan, Taiwan, and Korea in a highly selective program assembled by Japan Society’s Artistic Director Yoko Shioya.

Pollen Revolution

Representing Japan is Butoh legend Akira Kasai’s renowned Pollen Revolution, which toured the world between 2001 and 2005. The troupe returns to the U.S. in this recreation of the iconic work with choreography by Akira Kasai to be performed by his son Mitsutake Kasai. Pollen Revolution marked Akira Kasai’s New York debut with its premiere at Japan Society in 2002. The show returned to the U.S. in 2004 for an eight-city tour, after which it went on to tour the world. Now, Akira Kasai’s electric work comes alive once again, this time with magnetic dancer Mitsutake Kasai taking center stage. This daring solo performance begins with Kasai performing an improvised traditional Japanese dance dressed as an onnagata, or a male kabuki actor who plays female roles. With every costume change the tone of the choreography shifts “from feminine to masculine, ceremonial to colloquial, past to the present, and tragic to comic,” wrote Dance Magazine. To this day, Akira Kasai’s landmark piece tests the limits of butoh as a distinctive branch of contemporary dance.


Taiwanese choreographer Kuan-Hsiang Liu’s Kids is a tribute to death and his late mother’s fight against cancer, punctuated by moments of peace and serenity. In this North American premiere, three performers move to voice recordings of the choreographer with his mother as she confronted cancer and treatments. Through emerging star Kuan-Hsiang Liu, Kids takes the shape of a modern grief ritual composed of idiosyncratic movements and nightmarish physically charged interludes. With passing moments of serenity and peace, the choreography explores how the body of a beloved person transforms in the final days of its life. Winner of the 15th Taishin Performing Arts Award in 2017, Kids embarks from Liu’s intimate experiences and develops into a rite of passage with twisted, confrontational movements.


Silver Knife

Founded in 2007, Goblin Party is a rising young performing artist group from Korea. Also making its North American premiere, Silver Knife delves into conflicting portrayals of female identity through the eloquently crafted movements of four women. Inspired by the traditional Korean ‘Eunjangdo’ knife, which was worn as a symbol of chastity for women but also used to attack predators or commit suicide, the performance dives deep into contradictory expectations of women – from soft to relentless, shy to angry, or tough but sensitive. Linked together like a striking and peculiar creature, the four female dancers appear on stage and transform into loud, rambunctious schoolgirls who reenact their favorite pop stars and mythic warriors. The shadow of gender oppression pervades the piece as the dancers begin to stick their heads in boxes, hiding behind long, tangled hair. Their relentless energy blurs preconceived notions of womanhood in a defiant eye-opening 20-minute appeal to reach past this label and at larger human emotions.

From 1997 until 2017, Japan Society’s Contemporary Dance Showcase acted as a vital incubator for Japanese and East Asian choreographers, introducing them to the U.S. during the annual Association of Performing Arts Presenters (APAP) Conference and serving to launch and support their international careers. A leading platform for the introduction of Japanese choreographers and companies, the Dance Showcase expanded in 2008 to include artists and works from the broader East Asian region, including Taiwan and South Korea. Many Dance Showcase alumni have gone on to perform in major venues such as Jacobs Pillow Dance, Walker Art Center, The Kennedy Center, The Joyce Theater and others. Through dozens of debuts and premieres, the Dance Showcase has introduced Kota Yamazaki, Jo Kanamori’s Noism, the late Ko Murobushi and his Ko & Edge Co. and chelfitsch Theater Company, among many artists who rose to international acclaim. Now, twenty years later, this popular event in Japan Society’s Performing Arts Program appropriately changes its name to Contemporary Dance Festival to continue and further its mission to present artists and works that push the envelope of contemporary dance throughout Japan & East Asia.

The performance on Saturday is followed by a MetLife Meet-the-Artists Reception.

For more information and to purchase tickets, visit Japan Society’s website or call the box office at 212-832-1155.