Canadian Stage: Spotlight Japan

Technology and tradition come together in an innovative celebration of Japanese arts and culture

Presented by Canadian Stage

Hiroaki Umeda in Holistic Strata. Photo by Ryuichi Maruo (YCAM).

Japan is a land of ancient customs and modern invention, a fascinating fusion of the old and new. This week, Toronto audiences have the opportunity to sample some of what this enchanting country has to offer at Spotlight Japan, a festival of classic and contemporary Japanese culture presented by Canadian Stage at the Berkeley Street Theatre. Read our review roundup of the two double bills below.

Haptic and Holistic Strata
Created and performed by Hiroaki Umeda

This double bill showcases two dance pieces, Haptic and Holistic Strata, by choreographer Hiroaki Umeda. The first performance features distorted, glitchy audio and colourful lighting displays designed by S20, as Umeda’s mechanical movements ebb and flow with the speed of the programming. The second performance picks up the tempo with fast-paced visuals by YCAM and S20. Umeda moves fluidly against an ever-changing background of stars, snow, static and waves, creating a breathtaking optical illusion. Infused with hip hop and house influences, both Haptic and Holistic Strata are feats of high-tech wizardry that highlight Umeda’s impressive talents. However, the abrasive noise and repetitive nature of the dance becomes tiresome after the first 15 minutes of each performance.

Sayonara and I, Worker
Written and directed by Oriza Hirata

The second double bill features two plays by Japan’s leading contemporary playwright Oriza Hirata. Both pieces were created in association with the Robot Theater Project at Osaka University. The first play, Sayonara, involves a very realistic looking female android (Geminoid F), who has been hired as a companion to a sick young woman. With pre-programmed vocals and facial motions by Minako Inoue, the android blinks and speaks on her own in a robotic, yet surprisingly touching performance.

I, Worker tells the story of a husband who no longer works, and a robot which, for reasons unknown (is Takeo depressed?), is suddenly unable to work. Performed in Japanese with English subtitles, this funny and endearing piece features two remotely controlled Robovie R3 robots that steal the show with hilarious comments, eye and hand gestures, and adorable bows. Both theatrical pieces are remarkable for the way they explore the nature of human compassion using new technology.

In addition to these unique dance and theatre offerings, Spotlight Japan features live music, food and drink tastings, and art displays. The festival runs until March 2 at the Berkeley Street Theatre. Visit for more information and to buy tickets.

Show Dates: 
Tue, 2013-02-26 - Sat, 2013-03-02
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