Twenty Times, Twenty Years…Kicking over the Traces

The twentieth Dance Hakushu approaches…drawing closer to the earth, permeating more deeply into the forests and fields, challenging our hearts and minds with a transformation of space and time. In the summer of 1988, the Hakushu Summer Festival (as it was called originally) began with a small volunteer committee of established artists and citizens with an interest in the intersection between art and life. At its core were dancers, theatre people, musicians, visual artists, and art producers who were active in cities across Japan and the world in venues ranging from theatres and museums to the outdoors. Dancer/farmer Min Tanaka (now art director and on-site leader) and his associates had already established Body Weather Farm in Hakushu-cho in 1985, and this became the base of operations.
In the late 1980s the committee included members who had just entered their forties, such as the novelist Kenji Nakagami and the artist Koji Enokura, and other friends who have already passed away, leaving behind with us their concern for our thinning ties to our roots. At the time our theme was " Shed new light on the cities from our native rural villages." This was the era of the bubble economy in Japan, and perhaps our sense of crisis with regard to the state of the natural environment and sense of crisis was still a bit naive. Since that time the name has changed to Art Camp Hakushu and then to the present Dance Hakushu, and there was one year we were unable to hold the festival, but one way or another, thanks to broad support, this year marks its twentieth anniversary.
Over the past twenty years our themes have become more radical, in the sense of addressing the root issues. The simplistic rural-urban dichotomy no longer works. That is why we chose "Origin as Life" (Jomon to iu Inochi) as this year's theme. In Japanese we have used the Jomon period of Japanese prehistory to convey this sense of origin, and as a metaphor for eternal wisdom and the courage to live.
Everything has become more and more basic and more real…our farming and forestry, our artistic and cultural activities, our consciousness of our daily lives and pursuits. Communication between generations has become increasingly important; each year brings a deepening and quickening of the flow of life and its transitions. The community of friends that is assembling to grapple with these issues ranges in age from the teens into the seventies, and is joining us from more than twenty different countries across the globe. The history and character of Dance Hakushu is in the way that people have overcome differences of perspective and experience, and performers and artists, audience and spectators alike have, as individuals, shared unstintingly with one another all that they had to reveal and to give. The first thing we learned here was reverence for the place. Then, using our bodies, hands, and heads, we worked to deepen our mutual compassion and to form a better relationship with the environment. Even a single summer's experience of this is written in the body and can transform other times and places. Twenty years of accumulated experience has resulted in the embodiment of a solid perspective, as individuals have left their mark upon the community.
This year as well, tradition and the avant garde meet "sans frontières" for a program exploring fusion. Firsts at Dance Hakushu will be performances by the taiko drumming troupe Ondekoza and the theater company Tokyo Kandenchi; Onikenbai, an esoteric folk dance tradition from Iwate Prefecture; a full-scale performance of kutiyattam, a classical dance-theater tradition from South India; and the Tuvan throat-singing known as khoomei. As in past years there will be an outdoor solo dance series presented by some twenty individual performers, and contemporary artists will also create and exhibit their works outdoors. Over twenty years time, little by little, we have hand-built outdoor stages and performance spaces that have made themselves at home amid the woods and fields and paddies, where we invite you to experience for yourself the life of Hakushu, with its unique fusion of artistic expression, daily living, and the natural world.

Dance Hakushu Executive Committee
June 2008


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榎倉康二「干渉(1988)」 Koji Enokura's artwork (1988)

'92沖縄歌垣モーアシビ '92 Okinawa's traditional performing arts

'89スーダン仮面舞踊 '89 Mask dancers from Bhutan