Ichigo-Ichieh New Theatre: Birthday Present for Myself
Ichigo-Ichieh New Theatre is based in Nelson, BC, the theatrical vehicle for dancer/actor/choreographer Hiromoto Ida. His newest piece, Birthday Present for Myself, will be performed this month at the 20th Vancouver International Dance Festival.
Birthday Present for Myself takes its title from a piece of the same name by Russian composer Pavel Karmanov, who provides most of the musical accompaniment. The show merges dance, theatre, classical music and voice to tell the story of the old man, raising a glass of sake to himself in celebration on what will be his last birthday. As he reminisces about the richness of his life experience, he is visited by the spirit of his wife, played by soprano Allison Girvan.
Hiromoto Ida spoke to The Bulletin from his home in Nelson.
Bulletin Interview: Hiromoto Ida
by John Endo Greenaway
You live a very rural life, how does that impact your art, do you think?
We take our water from the creek, I know exactly where the water comes from. I have to fix things and clean the water box to get water. I fix the house, build some furniture, plant a garden. These are all basic but very important things for living. Now when I create a theatre piece, somehow I have that same strength as doing this other primal living stuff. I learn to see the difference between the real and superficial through living a rural life.
Ichigo-Ichieh is the Japanese notion of a unique occasion. Tell me more about this concept.
If you meet someone, it is considered a unique occasion that happens only once, in that moment, in an entire lifetime. Even if you meet the same person the next day under the same circumstances, this exact same moment can never reoccur. This idea is built into the philosophy of the Japanese tea ceremony, not unlike a theatre performance, which has a host preparing a ceremony for a guest. Every small thing has a purpose and a position – even imperfections. A tea ceremony’s main focus is always given to perfecting a cup of tea to present to the guest with ichigo-ichieh in their mind. Quite often in performance art, the performers end up at the center of the stage. All of us, including me, tend to become ego-centered.it is unavoidable. So ichigo-ichieh reminds me that I am not the star to shine, I have to become fire, burn myself to give light to other people (audiences). It’s all about the gift to the audience. They are the main focus.
Birthday Present for Myself has been in process for a number of years – tell me what led you to create it.
Many things in my life. The shock of my grandparents passing away. We live together in same house, they were like part of the house structure. But since they disappeared, I have been carrying this sad, almost angry question: why do we all die? That’s for sure one of reason this piece was created. Also the time I spent during the last week of my father’s life and the time spend with my mother after he passed away.
You took the title from Karmanov’s piece. I’m listening to it as I write out these questions. It’s very evocative. What was it about that music that spoke to you so strongly?
When I heard it the first time, right away I had this image of an old man sitting in a chair in a big field of tall grasses, his memories of life running around him like Japanese lantern. After that, almost every day, new images and stories arrived like presents, I was busy writing them down. And of course I was curious of this title. It’s funny, I thought of the old man’s memories and birthday, and of course when you start seeing your life like a Japanese lantern, it means your end of the day is coming close. I told Pavel Karamanov about seeing these images when I heard his music, and he commented that these are things he was imagining when he created this music. That gave me strength to create this show.
Your work often seems to dwell on mortality and the emotions that come with age and the end of life. Why is this, do you think?
That is one of the biggest questions I have been carrying with me in my life. I still remember when I was age around 13, the first time I watched my grandmother’s day. I watched her from getting up in the morning until she went to bed. I remember feeling some kind of sadness. She didn’t speak much, gardening, sitting quietly . . . Maybe I felt what it means to get old. After that realization, I started to talk to her more. Death is just other side of living. And every one of us has to go through it. I was also always interested in the distance between of two different things. Not their differences, but the thin line where they meet. It is easy to just move and dance, but I am more interested in showing and exploring the line when people stop moving or dancing, start moving. Why do they stop moving? Then after they stop or shut up, what’s next?
Your father passed away a while back, and you’re a father yourself. Does this continuity of life play itself out in your creative process?
It’s not so much the father/son thing, but the continuity. When I live close to nature, I really think some part of us will continue forever. I am not talking of religion here. It’s more like I feeling I have when I shovel the snow every winter, raking the autumn leaves, watching the creek never stop running. We are from nature. We are from there 100%. The last scene of this piece is my question. Are we really come back? I am listening for the answers when I dance this last part of the show. Maybe the audience will catch the answers for me.
ICHIGO-ICHIEH NEW THEATRE | hiromoto ida
presents Birthday Present for Myself
Nelson February 29
Vancouver International Dance Festival March 26 – 28
Salt Spring Island March 30 | Vernon April 1 | Oliver April 3