The Japan Arts Matsuri (JAM 2012) took place last weekend at Theater for the New City in the East Village. This year marked the tenth anniversary of JAM, a three-day extravaganza showcasing the wealth of talented performers found in New York’s Japanese community.
Presented by American Dream Japanese Network (NPO AD JaNet) in cooperation with co-presenters Faune Dance Troupe and Noon Tan Music and Entertainment, JAM 2012 was a festival of Japanese artists in New York in a talent show/variety show format. JAM 2012 promotes the Japanese community in New York by bringing artists from a wide range of disciplines together for live performances and introducing non-Japanese audiences to the diversity of Japanese arts and culture. Actors Saori Goda and Yoshi Amao hosted the event, introducing audiences to the Talent Night competitors and the special guests.
The Talent Night actually spanned two days, with several local acts competing on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon. This year’s performers were dancers, singers, and musicians, who represented genres from traditional Japanese to contemporary, jazz, tap, R&B, ballet, and Dub step, etc. It wasn’t all singing and dancing. Rich Kameda performed magic, while Tokyo Circus took the stage with their comedy routine.
Two diverse winners were named: The baton twirlers Team MRM and Foxy Foxes, a quartet of female dancers who specialize in jazz and waack (African American and Latino dance).
Special guests included popular local acts that have established themselves in New York, such as energetic pop singer KI-YO, who recently released a music video for his first international single; accomplished concert pianist Taka Kigawa, whose work appears on the soundtrack of the movie Cloud Atlas; jazz singer Kay Matsukawa, whose smoky vocals were accompanied by Yuko Okamoto on piano; and Samurai Sword Soul, who offered a taste of their new project, Utsuyo Kakuryo: Passing by the Other Side, which will run in February 2013.
Zen Hirano, the first Asian member of The Actors Studio, choreographed a theater performance of YUZURU, starring Miyuki Hirano and Tsutomu Ikeda. Based on the play by Junji Kinoshita, YUZURU tells the story of a simpleton named Yohyo who marries Tsu, a loving and caring woman who has a secret: She’s actually a crane. She weaves beautiful fabrics from her feathers, fabrics that Yohyo sells. Hirano mixed video with live actors and used subtitles. The concept of the fairytale is an interesting one; however, the presentation was probably just a little to long and a little too slow for the pumped-up crowd to enjoy fully.
But the crowd did enjoy two amazing performances from guests who came to New York for JAM 2012. Performance artist Kenichi Ebina, better known to fans as “EbiKen,” did a show in Las Vegas on Saturday night and flew to New York to impress everyone on Sunday. Fusing jazz, hip-hop, and popping and locking dance moves, EbiKen did a better Michael Jackson than Michael Jackson did Michael Jackson.
For something completely different, Ichimujin gave a spectacular classical guitar performance, even doing an acoustic version of “Yosakoi,” the traditional song from the duo’s hometown of Kochi.
Variety was the name of the game at JAM 2012, where dozens of Japanese performers converged in the East Village to share their talents. NPO AD JaNet streamed the event online, and you can watch the performances on Ustream.