SHINJU – 2008 –

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Shinju Project Description

SHINJU is a fully realized 75 minute dance/theatre production. It has very traditional Kabuki elements as well as some very unique elements. The actors/dancers are dressed in beautiful and colorful Japanese kimono costumes.  Their faces are completely painted white with red and blue accented eyes and lips.  Kuroko (invisible performer dressed in black) move about the stage seamlessly helping actors get changed on stage, striking and moving props. Actors/dancers perform Kabuki style dance routines. However, SHINJU also has some very unique elements. Live music is played through out the show, which is consistent with traditional Kabuki, but the sound is truly a fusion of  western and eastern musical instruments and celebrate this unique musical mixture. Sara Davis Buechner plays selected music from Bach to accompany the two main characters duets. Wendy Bross Stuart plays Koto, a 13 string Japanese instrument and the Shamisen, a 3 string Japanese guitar. Minoru Kofu Yamamoto plays Shakuhachi, a bamboo flute.  They both improvise as the dancers moved about the stage miming.


Review from “the Bulletin”

At : Performance Works Vancouver,  Oct 30 to Nov.2 2008

I found myself drawn in from the beginning, when Yayoi and the exquisite Manami Hara applied their perfect makeup without a mirror, (impressive in itself!)  transforming and becoming their characters. Much of the movement was simple- such as the first time the lovers cross paths, circling the stage in smaller and smaller circles until they pass, pause, lean back slightly, then continue their orbits – yet able to communicate such complex feelings.  Though the performance style was based on Kabuki, there were other influences at play- including a brief and delightful leap into classical ballet- and I was struck by the similarities with, say, Commedia d’el Arte, and the universality of some of the archetypes.

We laughed. We cried. We hoped for the lovers’ success.

All of the performers were strong. Thomas Conlin Jones depiction of the aunt was a particular stand out, and Peter Hall seems to have found a true home here in this style.  But it was Manami Hara and Yayoi who carried the story, and especially the deep pathos and amazing physicality of Yayoi that brought us all to tears in the end.

( by Paula Jardine)

Classic tale, modern twist
SHINJU: Tragic love story adapted from 18th century kabuki

Set in 1703 in Osaka, Japan, Shinju is a tale of tragic love. Set amidst class conflicts and life’s cruel twists, the love between Toku and Ohatsu includes a “til death do us bring together” climax
that is certain to remind many of one Bard’s Romeo and Juliet.
In fact, the popular 18th-century kabuki theatre piece was based on a true story written by Monzaemon Chikamatsu.
Now adapted to a modern context by Yayoi Theatre Movement as a dance and movement piece by Yayoi Hirano and Manami Hara, the story morphs into a different kind of theatrical work entirely from its traditional classic kabuki. Featuring Yayoi, Hara, Peter Hall and Tomoko Hanawa, the show also boasts musical ccompaniment ranging from J.S. Bach to unique new traditional ompositions played by ace pianist Sara davis Buechner, Wendy Bross tuart and Minoru Yamamoto.
It’s yet another development for a play that actually started its life as a bunraku, or puppet, piece.
“The original writer adapted it into a theatrical work from a puppet show””says Manami Hara. “It was adapted to multiple film reatments as well.”
“Owing to the similarity to Romeo and Juliet, it is a very universal story that can easily be understood as a kabuki and movement piece to non-Japanese audiences,” says Yayoi Hirano. “That we are women performing it is not as much of a surprise, because this has been done many times before, even in the original form.”
Since relocating to Vancouver, Yayoi Theatre Movement has performed a number of challenging and awardwinning avant-garde works based upon traditional Japanese classics. She still loves to tell the original stories, but likes to incorporate a good deal of new conceptual matter into her pieces.
“We started working on this about two years ago,” says Hirano. “This is not a very long time when you think about the original score and having to order the custom wigs for the various characters and so on.”
While Hirano is a world-acclaimed,Japanese-schooled artist, Hara is a graduate of Langara’s Studio 58. Was it an eye-opener for the two actors to work together coming at it from two different training disciplines?
“From my point of view, I have no knowledge of how the Japanese artist acquires their skills,” says Hara. “So this means that Yayoi is my guru and I am a student in this trying to figure out the Japanese art. Very rewarding.”
“Japanese movement is a specific skill of continuous motion hard for the Western artist to understand at times,”
says Hirano. “You have to know in your body about when to pause.”
“You have to understand what those pauses mean, too,” says Hara.
So try to imagine Romeo and Juliet told with white-faced kabuki actors. They are moving along to live music from the WEAM (Western European art music) canon that often relies on you grasping the storyline through study of the motion and the aid of occasional chorus. That’s the concept behind Shinju. Sort of.

“There is also the element of some improvisation during the show,” says Hirano. “If the actors do something slightly different, the musicians need to follow along with us.”
Expect to be taken on a journey spanning ages and arts.



Mothers – 2007 –

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With the wide spread use of computers and video games, interpersonal relationships have changed and become perhaps weaker and less significant in today’s society.
The most fundamental of all relationships is the connection between a mother and a child.
This project, “Mothers”, with four contributing artists will consist of four different stories based on Japanese, Jewish, Canadian First Nations and Chinese legends. The aim is to look at how mankind can live through exploration of these stories noting their similarities and differences.

Yayoi Hirano, the project’s initiator, has previously created/produced, directed and performed mime & dance performances drawn from Japanese legends using traditional Noh and Kabuki style.

In 2005, she performed “Celebration of Life: Four Seasons”, which told four different-aged women’s stories from historical Noh scripts. (Yayoi, a breast cancer survivor, initiated this performance as a fundraiser for the BC Cancer Foundation and the VGH&UBC Hospital Foundation raising over $8,000.) Yayoi used visual images in this performance as a new trial, and now in the next project she would like to explore the potential/effective use of images on screen further in depth.

In addition, through performing stories of four different ethnic groups in one play, a message Yayoi would like to send to the world from Vancouver, an ethnically diverse city, is the importance of understanding, respecting and learning from other cultures.

Audience review
“your performance last night was marvellous, as was Wendy’s music and the performances of the other young dancers you collaborated with. it was all quite spell-binding — and so creative in many different ways. the 3 pieces, each very different from the others, worked together beautifully. your performance as the mother from Sumidagawa was very poignant — such beautiful movement & voice. Bridget & i both hope that lots of people will come out to see it.
with many congratulations from both of us” ~Daphne ~

“YES indeed. MQ and I and Fred and Pauline went last night — really loved the final piece, amazing and wonderful and moving. The expressiveness of the body makes for expressiveness in the apparantly inert mask — that is as much the mask-maker’s skill as the mimeist’s (mimic’s?). The whole evening well- well- well-worth seeing / doing. Thanks for telling us about it.” ~Peter Quartermain ~

I very much enjoyed your performance on Thursday. It was funny, cute, and moving. Junko-chan couldn’t stop crying after ‘Sumida gawa’.”

“I had the chance to see your play mothers few weeks ago. I was astonished by the beauty and the simplicity of this work. The work was outstanding in terms of the little props were used and how the idea was conveyed with little tools. The music was outstanding as well.”

“You were simply magnificent last evening. I enjoyed all of the dances
immensely, and particularly the last one, which affected me deeply. Totemo
kondou shimashita.”

“Thank you for a very impressive evening of theatre. It was magnificent & imaginative, well directed & performed with precision & inspiration.
You did real well & the company is great. I very much liked the puppetry & mask work. I sat in the front row & was quite close to the kodo & piano & the music was beautiful. Thank you so much & thanks too to your company.
Again many thanks.” ~Txi ~


STORIES – 2006, 2007 –

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Based on a Jacques Ibert composition, “Stories” consists of ten short stories. Yayoi’s choreographic interpretation helps to bring each piece to an immediate visual reality. The stories characters themselves are realized in the faces of tendifferentJapanese Noh-style masks Yayoi has carved, but their personalities are even more vividly fleshed out in her body movements and rhythmic translation of the music’s mood.

Yayoi’s approach to build characters goes beyond the actual title of each piece, the mood of the music and Ibert’s actual diary being a significant influence. For example in “The abandoned Palace”, a half young half old mask shows how the ghost in the Palace used to be. On the other hand, in “The old beggar” she expresses in three minutes an old female beggar’s physical and deep emotional situation

About Jacques Ibert

Defining the style of the unjustly neglected French composer Jacques Ibert is not a simple matter. There is something of the Neo-Classicism of Poulenc or Stravinsky to him, and his understated yet keen coloration brings to mind the succinctly riant oil canvases of Raoul Dufy. Yet this collection of ten sparely evocative piano pieces also invites comparison to earlier important programmatic collections, notably Emmanuel Chabrier’s ten Pieces Pittoresques (1881) and Claude Debussy’s two books of Preludes (1910 – 13). The similarity to the latter is immediately apparent from the way in which Ibert’s titles are printed in the score — at the end of each piece rather than at the head of the title page. Debussy invented this practice in his Preludes as a way of inviting the performer to conjure up his or her own poetic imagery before being influenced by the

composer’s vision.

About the MusicAbout the Music


Titles :

La meneuse de tortues d’or (Leader of the golden turtles)
Le petit ane blanc (Little white donkey)
Le vieux mendiant (The old beggar)
A giddy girl
Dans la maison triste (In the sorrowful house)
Le palais abandonne (The abandoned palace)
Bajo la mesa (Beneath the table)
La cage de cristal (The crystal cage)
La marchande d’eau fraiche (Merchant of cool water)
Le cortege de Balkis (Procession of Queen Balkis)

Ibert wrote little for the piano, depite being thoroughly at home with the instrument. His small output is nonetheless consistently on a high level, as exemplified by these miniature masterpieces. Gerard Michel defines Ibert’s use of the title Histoires as being a kind of narration to children. The texture of the pieces is at times thin, and technically some can be played by a young person. But the musical style itself demands familiarity with debonair, urbane Gallic sophistication. Some of the titles are deliberately obscure: La meneuse de tortues d’or, Bajo la mesa, La marchande d’eau fraiche, Le cortege de Balkis — all snapshots of travel to exotic locales like Tunisia and Algeria, complete with unusual encounters with the locals. The other pieces are closer to home, images of remembered people and haunting places.



Four Seasons -2005-

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Human life overlaps the four seasons.
Wearing four self-carved Noh-theatre style wooden masks; Teenage Girl, Young Woman, Middle Age Woman and Old Woman, Yayoi lives the four different lives of these women.
Using slides and hanging some plastic mannequins she performs solo.

The young girl is the girl from “Hagoromo”; the young woman is from “Hanjo”; the middle age woman from “Kinuta”; the old woman from “Sotoba-komachi”. Between each story, Yayoi dances and plays with her inner image with abstract and amusing movement.
The show is 65 min.

Yayoi, born and raised in Japan moved to Canada at age 50. Although trained as a mime performer, she has extensive experience in traditional Noh-theatre and Kabuki-dance. Since moving to Canada, her creative focus has been to make Japanese culture appeal to a universal audience.

Concepts and the scripts of “ Four Seasons”
Drawing on stories from traditional Noh-theatre will tell the story of four stages of a woman’s life with mime, dance and Noh style chant.

Spring. A celestial nymph is dancing in the celestial world. She takes a look at the lower world. She flew down to the lower world out of her curiosity, it was Miho no Matsubara, at the roots of Mt. Fuji. It is the world that the celestial nymph has never known before. She is very curious. She walks in the field, and picks some flowers. Then she comes to the shore of the sea. She touches the water. That was something she has never felt before. And she just realizes that she is missing her Hagoromo cloth. She rushes back to the shore. A fisherman is holding the cloth. The celestial nymph asks him to give it back to her, but he wouldn’t listen. She cannot return to the celestial world without the cloth. She asks to give it back once again. The fisherman reluctantly agrees to give it back and asks her to do the dance of the celestial nymph in return. She dances and goes back to the celestial world.

Summer. Hanako is looking for Yoshida; she is carrying the fan that she swore her love with Yoshida in spring. She travels from Mino to Kyoto, walking the distance of about 200km and boating from a shrine to another. When she finally reaches Kyoto in summer, she was too exhausted to take another step. “Where is my dear, no signs of you anywhere, all I have is this fan that we swore our love by, to my great sorrow,” she sings and dances. Yoshida just comes by and talks to Hanako. They show their fans to each other, find themselves finally together, and celebrate their reunion.

Fall. A woman in Kyushu waits for her husband, who went to Kyoto for a lawsuit three years ago, to come home. She finally receives a letter from her husband saying, “It seems I will be home in the year end.” The letter eases her grief, but she receives another letter near the end of fall, when the night wind is cold, and when a hart calls for his mate somewhere. He writes, “I’m afraid I cannot come home at the end of this year.” The wife is now very disappointed, and she doubts her husband doesn’t love her any more. Her hatred becomes madness, and she commits a suicide in the end. And her husband just returns. He did not betray her. He just couldn’t come home sooner since the lawsuit took longer. The spirit of the wife goes back to netherworld without hatred knowing what really happened to her husband.

Sotoba Komachi
“The world we live in is turned by the thread of destiny, and there is only a thin line between life and death. Is this real or illus ional?”
Ono no Komachi was a woman of great beauty. Komachi inevitably aged and became 100 years old. Now nobody looks back at her; in fact, she is said to be dirty and creepy. She occasionally does panhandling, but no one gives her anything. Only kids throw stones at her. She manages to find a place to sit down and eats some food out of the scrip. All of a sudden, there is a voice, a man’s voice. That was the ghost of Fukakusa shosho who loved Komachi in the past. He wanted to hear Komachi’s reply so much that he came by for ninety-nine nights and died of a heart attack on the hundredth night. His resentment ended up possessing Komachi. She realizes that she was sitting down around the grave of Fukakusa; she purifies it with water and salt and says a prayer for him.

Japanese artist brings Four Seasons to life on stage
by Diana Rinne/ Encore!
Rooted in the rich traditions of Japanese Noh and Kabuki theatre, performer Yayoi Hirano brings to Grande Prairie a unique contemporary performance that reaches far beyond the borders of her native land with Celebration of Life –Four Seasons, Jan 13 and 14.
Second Street Theatre will provide the stage for Hirano’s modern interpretation of four stories taken from Japanese traditional Noh theatre, which uses masks and chanting to relate stories to the audience.
“Spring is young girl, summer is woman, autumn is middle-aged woman and winter is old woman” she explained in a phone interview from her home in Vancouver recently”
“Because this is a Japanese story and not many people know it, I have a narration by a Canadian actor who is a man,” she added nothing the stories deal with the relationships between men and women.
In addition, Hirano’s performance includes a DVD component that offers English subtitles during the Noh chanting, as well as brief intermission segues between each story.
“I don’t want it to be just a black out, so I have a DVD showing the scenery for the next story,” she said. “I think is easy to follow.”
Following the traditions of Noh theatre, Hirano will perform Celebration of Life –Four Seasons wearing masks she carved herself.
Mask carving is and entire art form in itself and something Hirano enjoys and finds very healing in many ways.
“It is a traditional style of mask carving for Noh theatre. Some masks take about 100 hours to carve and paint” she said, nothing she has created 13 masks and is working on more.
“It’s really enjoyable to do it. Sometimes it’s not easy but wood smells good” she chuckled. While Hirano felt the audience in Japan and Canada are not that different, she has noticed Canadians not familiar with the traditional Noh theatre are often amazed at how expressive it can be.
“Many Canadians didn’t expect that masks can change,” she said. Though Hirano does not physically change the masks, her physically expressive performance is what brings that perception to her audience.
“When they are watching me on the stage, the masks can change whenever my emotion changes. The mask itself does not change, but whenever I express something they feel what that person feels and they feel like the mask has changed,” she explained.
Hirano has been performing mime and dance for many years, graduating from the Toho Gakuen College of performing arts and co-founding the Mime Theatre Pierrot-kan in 1975.
“I had an interest in traditional stories and have done Noh theatre singing and dancing and Kabuki theatre singing and dancing, and actually even older theatre style,” she said.
She began a very prolific solo career for 10 years later in 1985. In 1989, she became the first mime artist ever to receive Japan’s Ministry of Education Fellowship, and spent a year collaborating with artists in Germany and Canada.
Since founding Yayoi theatre Movement in 1990, Hirano has travelled the world, performing in 13 countries, as well as collaborating with other international artists.
Hirano became a permanent resident of Vancouver in the fall of 2002. It was that same year she discovered she had breast cancer. Over the past three years, Hirano battled the disease and is a breast cancer survivor, she feels, because of the Canadian health care system.
“I feel my life was saved by the system that is here,” she said. “I just appreciate it and I want to tell that I am still alive even though I had breast cancer. I want to encourage people who have or may have breast cancer.”
As part of her commitment to raising some awareness and appreciation of the treatment she herself received, Hirano’s Jan 13 performance will be a gala fundraiser for Canadian Cancer Society.
Yayoi Hirano performs Celebration of Life –Four Seasons at Second Street Theatre, Jan 13 and 14 at 8 p.m. For ticket or more information, contact the GPLT box office at 538-1616.


Dance – 2007 –

Shinju: Monzaemon Chikamatsu’s classic love story adapted by Yayoi Hirano and Manami Hara.

Yayoi Theatre Movement production, Performance Works, Granville Island, Oct. 30-Nov. 2, Thursday to Saturday at 8 p.m., also Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Tickets from $20. Info: 604-739-7760

Call it a Japanese Romeo and Juliet, but with a happier ending – sort of.

Shinju is the story of Ohatsu and Toku, a young courtesan and a merchant class fellow who fall for one another, despite the impossible gulf of class that divides them.

The story is based on the 18th Century tale by Monzaemon Chikamatsu, adapted by Yayoi Hirano as a dance and movement piece that draws on traditional Kabuki.

After a series of dramatic obstacles bar them from marrying, Toku and Ohatsu decide to commit suicide, planning to be reborn together in another life.

“The main difference is that when Romeo and Juliet die, it’s a tragedy,” explains Manami Hara, producer and actress in the production. “Their love couldn’t be understood, but in Shinju, they do kill themselves, although hoping to be together in the next life… their love will be reborn and pure.”

Expect elaborate costumes, intricate, expressive mime and movement, with music by Wendy Bross Stuart on koto and shamisen (a 13 string instrument and a three string guitar) and Minoru Kofu Yamamoto on the shakuhachi (a bamboo flute). Sara Davis Buechner plays Piano.