Azul Dance Theatre’s Take Root is blending spontaneous energy flow and blasts of illusions
APRIL 23, 2019 by JENNIFER JACKSON
If you haven’t yet heard the name Yuki Hasegawa, remember it, because hopefully so, it is likely that we will continue seeing her work being presented throughout NYC. Azul Dance Theatre, her own company which she has been nurturing since 2004, is tearing up the scene with their impressive athleticism and performance quality.
On April 6th, Green Space presented Take Root with Azul Dance Theatre performing Silver Quantum, having had its first premier last year, and premiering Masquerade for the first time. The evening began with the former, as dancers took charge of the space with soft fluidity where we really got to see Yuki’s choreographic strength; fluidity in transitions and beautiful contemporary partner work.
A production of enthusiasm and magnificence with eight dancers, Silver Quantum, is a 3D picture blending spontaneous energy flow and blasts of illusions. It is Azul’s most recent production featuring Yuki’s synthesis of Japanese avant-garde and American contemporary dance.
Although continuous, it was never predictable as there were moments when the music changed the tone, sending the dancers in frantic hand gestures. Instead of imposing a clear meaning onto the audience, much of this work is left to interpretation making it easy for any audience member to feel connected. The movement in Silver Quantum asks questions instead of trying to deliver answers.
Most of the time I spent wondering, what’s inside the box? The majority of the evening’s focus was on the mysterious Masquerade, which began in ominous silence as a dancer carried a box across the stage before disappearing into the darkness. The elements were all in place to create an environment as the black and red costumes, dim lighting, and dynamic and almost primal choreography with the oriental music made me feel like I had travelled to another country.
Sultry, emotional, and raw energy was spurred as there were bouts of solos and duets around the box leading up to a bigger presentation. As it kept reappearing and sometimes very quickly disappearing, the suspension was building until eventually, it made its way into the hands of audience members, but of course, just to hold, not to open it. As the costumes became more colourful and elaborate, the movement became less emotional and more jazzy and more masks were making their way to the dancers’ faces.
What’s the big mystery behind Masquarade? We all wondered as a flower was finally revealed from the box. According to Yuki, greed sometimes disturb life’s true desire and blinds our minds. Utilizing a treasure box as a key element, Masquerade conveys how ironic human behaviors disrupt how we achieve our most secret desire.
I was performing at the major musical theatre in Tokyo for seven years as a professional dancer and actress after I graduated from Kobe College in Japan.
I came to NY in 1998 to study at NYU and graduated with an MA in Dance and Dance Education. During the course of NYU, I studied “Choreography” and “Dance Composition,” with Renata Celichowska and Carl Paris. I just fell in love with creating a dance choreography.
I named my company as “Azul Dance Theatre,” as I liked the colour of Ocean, Sky, and Earth, (“Azul” means Blue in Spanish. In Japanese Blue is “ A-O,” and it did not sound so pretty.) and I choreographed and performed with my two best friends the first dance piece which synthesizing Japanese Traditional Dance and Contemporary Jazz Dance in 2004.About Yuki Hasegawa
Since then I have kept choreographing and presenting my dance works in NYC. However, I stopped performing by myself, as I injured my left knee, but it is better for me, as I can see the whole picture of my dance objectively.
My most exciting experience was presenting my work, “Vision” at Tribeca Performing Arts in 2016 with the support from CUNY Dance Initiative Residency Program. I created the piece for the nine dancers with Japanese traditional Noh (traditional performing Arts) masks, and also utilizing a film projection (collaborated with Miskos Production) in my dance.
I also had the great experiences with the Fashion event, “Style Pointe” at Dixon Place (produced by Sangeeta Yesley,) in 2016 & 2017 during the NY fashion show week, collaborating with the fashion designers to create the dance works.
About Yuki Hasegawa
During the past few years, in my choreography, I have focused on conveying energy flow (known as “chi”) through dance movements:
therefore, you will see lots of fluidity and sequential body motions in my dance. I also create the dance, as if I draw the picture on the 3D campus. All the movements and dancers’ body shapes are visualizing in the 3D images in my mind while I am creating a dance. I create the dance based on substantial themes which can be related to the people of various cultural, political, and religious background. My goal is to express “the meaning of the life,” (being as a human in this moment on the earth,) in my dance work.
Chacott Dance Cube
-Dance Around the World- from New York
Azul Dance Theatre Debut Performance: Wind from Far East
By Bruixa Nishimura
The debut performance of Azul Dance Theatre, founded and led by a choreographer Yuki Hasegawa, Wind from Far East took place at Merce Cunningham Studio on March 17th and 18th.
Yuki Hasegawa started dancing classical ballet from age 3, she earned a degree in psychology at Kobe College. After moved to Tokyo, she established her career as a musical theater actress performing in productions such as, Oliver! and Golden Boy. For 8 years of her professional career, she continued trainings in jazz dance, theater dance, tap, and Japanese traditional dance. Then she moved to the U.S., and got her master’s degree in Dance and Dance Education at New York University. Through she presented her works in many places in New York area, this is the first time she organized her full evening company concert. The dancers are Chizuru Asakura, Madoka Asato, Kiori Kawai, Mitsuha Kojima, Satomi Makida, Ayumi Miki, Aoi, Nishimura, and Yayoi Suzuki.
All pieces except for two were choreographed by Hasegawa. Many of them were with music by Kodo. Their movements were well synchronized with the music while fusing elements from both Eastern and Western cultures. The influence from Japanese traditional dance was apparent in their kimonos. Her Japanese sensibility made her works extraordinary. The choreographer herself danced in the first piece in a kimono however, the sound that women in kimono made with their barefoot was very annoying especially in silence. Japanese tabi (socks) would have reduced the friction noise on the floor quite
a bit, but I assume they might have been too slippery to dance with.
The most memorable piece of the night was the last of the program, Matsuri. Music was composed by Kodo the dancers in happi (traditional jackets) were very vibrant. It was an astonishing choreography. The arm movements were very unique- armpits were open, elbows were straight, arms were moving while palms were facing out- instead of classical ballet’s basic positions. There were also Kabuki-inspired movements: they turn their heads around while arms were open widely to the sides and legs were in deep plie. It was very impressive.
I interviewed Hasegawa after the show. She said, “The whole process of choreography was very hard. I know it is going to be required a tremendous amount of energy to keep putting on a show annually. But I’d like to go on. I could see dancers’ movements in my head while listening to music that I like."
Chocott Dance Cube
-Dance Around the World- from New York
Dumbo Dance Festival
By Bruixa Nishimura
Dumbo Dance Festival was held in Brooklyn, New York from October 19th to November 6th. It was a truly big festival performed by many dancers and numerous regional dance companies. The festival schedule was filled with many performances. For example, there were the performances from 2:00pm to 10:00pm in October 21st and from 1:00pm to 7:00pm in October 22ns. The Performances last all day long. I was impressed by the fact, “There were so many dancers in the world, and they fight desperately!” For more information, please see the web site, www.whitewavedance.com.
I attended the performance at 2:00pm in October 22nd at DUMBO Dance Festival. Azul Dance Theatre, directed by Yuki Hasegawa who was based in New York, was presented a dance piece, Taiko (music by KODO.) Yuki Hasegawa performed in musical plays in Tokyo for eight years, received her MA in Dance Education from New York University, and she currently works in New York as a choreographer. The dancers were Mayumi Narita, Yoyoi Suzuki, Chizuru Asakura, Kiori Kawai, Atsunori Hayamizu, and Kathryn Wilkening. All of them were young and talented dancers based in New York. I have seen this piece at premiere in the company concert. A male dancer joined the company at this time, and the performance was matched to feeling of the music played on drums. The dancers put happi coat (festival costumes) on, they shouted on the beats, and it was an excited choreography. The movements contain traditional Japanese dance as well. The company is aiming for active future in New York. I am glad to see that a Japanese choreographer who has made achievement. I am rooting for her.