The Arts

Dance at Spoleto Festival USA 2009 – S20/Hiroaki Umeda

Dance at Spoleto Festival USA 2009 – S20/Hiroaki Umeda featured image

reviewed by Paula Citron

while going to a condition & Haptic
Spoleto Festival USA 2009
Choreographed and performed by Hiroaki Umeda
At the Emmett Robinson Theatre
Charleston, South Carolina


Japan solo dance artist Hiroaki Umeda is a Renaissance man. He is a choreographer and dancer who designs his own sound, lighting and visuals to striking effect.

The two works he showed, while going to a condition and Haptic were absolutely original. Clothed in black, and practically in a silhouette, Umeda was like a living embodiment of static electricity in the former piece, and a prism of light in the latter.

He began both works by walking naturally into the space. His ending was also just a natural stop and a falling out of character. There was nothing theatrical about either. Rather, he clearly wanted to distance himself from the art piece he had just performed.

while going to a condition was like a series of electric shocks. Umeda basically stood in one place as he moved his hips first, and slowly added in muscle isolations throughout his body. Behind him, the projection screen reacted like a meter reading with corresponding bursts of electricity (represented by graph lines), stronger or weaker, more intense or less intense, matching his moves – almost as if he was wired himself. The sound resembled electrical static underscored by a thudding heartbeat.

The second piece Haptic had more movement and was almost Charlie Chaplinesque in the swivelled hips and knees, pulsating feet and snake-like arms. There was also much more from urban street dance (vogue-ing) in the body. The screen behind him this time went through a series of neon electric colours shown in lines and squares and so forth that reacted to his movements. Although his actions were similar to the first piece in mirroring an electric charge, there was more variation in body movement. The sound accompaniment was filled with pings that increased in speed to mirror the dance.

Apparently Umeda has been influenced by classical dance and hip-hop, and the latter was certainly in evidence, especially in the second piece. Nonetheless, the difference in movement between the works was subtle, and one could think the use of the body was cut from the same cloth.

The visual effects were phenomenal, particularly the measurement charts of the first and the colour spectrum of the second. Nonetheless, if I saw a third work by Umeda that kept to the same formula, I would suspect him of being a one trick pony.

Spoleto Festival USA 2009 continues Charleston, South Carolina until Jun. 7.

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