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Workshops & Residencies


Japanese Indigenous and Contemporary Dance (2009)

Daystar Lecture and Experiences in Japan


In September/October, 2009, Daystar/Rosalie Jones spent two weeks in Yokohama and Tokyo, Japan.  Daystar was invited by the  “Mother Port Festival” organized by the Mother Port Art Festival Committee, the City of Yokohama, and the Yokohama Arts Foundation and endorsed by the Embassy of Japan and the Japan Foundation. A year-long festival has been in full swing in Yokohama to commemorate the initiation of the “Mother Port” Yokohama 150 years ago, opening Japan to the possibilities of world-wide trade and travel.

Leaving on September 29, 2009, Daystar arrived to deliver an illustrated lecture in conjunction with the performance “Dances of the Earth” on October 3, 2009. The three hour event featured two lecturers, Dr. Nakagawa Hiroshi (Director, Yokohama Noh Theatre) and Daystar/Rosalie Jones, and two world Indigenous companies: Kaha:wi Dance Theatre of Ontario, Canada under the direction of Santee Smith (Mohawk), and the Ainu Rebels of Tokyo, Japan, under the direction of Sakai Mina. This event was the first of its kind in Japan as it highlighted the collaboration of two Indigenous peoples, the First Nations peoples of Canada and the Ainu of Japan, considered to be the original Indigenous peoples of Japan.

The visioning of this unique collaboration was the original concept of Dr. Nakagawa Hiroshi, Director of the Yokohama Noh Theatre. The overall vision of Dr. Nakagawa is to educate the public to the classic arts of Japan and other world-class artistic endeavors. In addition, Dr. Nakamura has had a passionate interest in the Ainu culture of Japan, seeking to facilitate a reawakening of the language, songs, dances and cultural contexts of these people of northern Japan.  For this particular collaboration, Akemi Takeda was appointed as Producer. Ms. Takeda is well-known to Trent University as a recent graduate of Trent University (Indigenous Studies Department) and former assistant to Marrie Mumford, Canada Research Chair and founder of IPI: Indigenous Performance Initiatives.


Illustrated lecture by Daystar/Rosalie Jone “Dancing Forever on Turtle Island: Indigenous Dance and Culture in the Americas” presented a cultural and historical  overview of the diversity of traditional dance forms of North America, including Northwest Coast and Pueblo peoples with a concentration on the contemporary Intertribal Powwow styles. In reference to the disruption of North American culture, she cited the broad-based efforts to exterminate the Bison, an Indigenous food supply, and the breaking of Indigenous family ties due to placement of Indigenous youth in governmental and religious boarding schools. Final moments of the presentation pointed to the successes in the 20th century in reawakening cultural strength through the processes of contemporary dance, song and other musical extensions and theatre innovations. The collaborative process continued on October 7 in Tokyo, where Daystar and Sakai Mina conducted a shared workshop at Waseda University.  Sixty enthusiastic participants learned dances and songs of the Ainu and Indigenous North Americans, followed by a Q&A.

The Ainu Rebels consider themselves an ensemble created to bring awareness to the history and culture of the Ainu peoples of Japan. Gifted as musicians, dancers and poets, they presented several episodes charting the evolving culture of a people inspired by drum and song, with dances illuminating cultural values such as respect of animals and ties to the land. Sarorun Ku was particularly telling of the culture: the dance combines two traditional dances: ku rimse (dance of bow) and sarorun rimse (dance of crane).  The male archer and female crane dancers tell how a man goes for hunting and finds a bird, but cannot shoot an arrow for he feels the bird too beautiful to kill. The Ainu Rebels sequence concluded with the e=katuhu pirka, translating to “you are beautiful” in Ainu language, a message to all people, but especially to Ainu youth, to take pride in their cultural identity.

Kaha:wi Dance Theatre is well-known throughout Canada; Santee Smith was aksed to re-mount the original, premiere production “Kaha:wi”. Translated from the from the Mohawk, the word Kaha:wi means “she carries”. The choreography, music and design for Kaha:wi explores fundamental philosophies of Iroquoian culture such as honouring the cycle of Life, thanksgiving, sacredness of the natural world, rite ceremonies and duality. For the Yokohama event, Kaha:wi was performed by six dancers, including Ms. Smith.  The Kaha:wi Dance Theatre has performed in Nozhem: First People’s Performance Space, Trent University, notably The Thrashing Floor and A Story Before Time under the auspices of IPI.

Red Brick Warehouse #1, the site of “Dances of the Earth”, is a black box theatre on the same design as Nozhem: First People’s Performance Space. Located  immediately off-shore of the original  port of Yokohama, the venue  proved itself well-equipped, with an exceptional technical crew bringing the event to the sold-out audience in the best possible environment.

A two-day workshop between the Ainu Rebels and Kaha:wi Dance Theatre took place on October 4 and 5, 2009. The Yokohama Arts Foundation anticipates an  immediate outcome to this year’s project when they say: “Founding upon this program, our further goal is a collaborative work between Kaha:wi Dance Theatre and Ainu Rebels, to create a new dance piece in Yokohama to present it worldwide.”  Everyone involved will anxiously await this new creative work.

Noh, Ka-bu-ki and ButohYour browser may not support display of this image.

It is hackneyed to say, “it was the trip of a lifetime”, but in all honesty, that is the only way I can describe my experience in Japan. Within a few short days, I was transported, through the performing arts, backward in time to the  300-year old tradition of Noh Theatre, forward through the ever-changing excitement of Kabuki, and on into the “dance of darkness”, Butoh.   First came an afternoon at the Tokyo National Noh Theatre steeped as it is in the “perfect” classic form of masked song, its accompanying instrumentation and staged movement. For me, it was astonishing that all performers sing in/through the mask. Stage attendants hover nearby, ready to assist the performer, supplying props as needed. The afternoon we attended, this provision came into shocking reality. One of the “primary” performers, a “ghost” character, came within one step of falling off the stage to our left. For a long moment, the audience held its collective breath, as the stage assistant sideled forward, in “squatted” position, pulling firmly on his kimono sleeve. The performer was then aware of the danger; it took several seconds before he realized his problem; the assistant guided him, unobtrusively enough, back on his circular path around the stage, to continue his text/song. We in the audience  breathed a collective sigh of relief as the play went on as if nothing had happened. My companion/interpreter, in the back of the theatre said she sat bolt upright from a dreamy half-sleep state at that moment!  My impression is that Noh Theatre is formalized and for that reason:  quiet, stately, aware of the courtly intent, enigmatic and yes, “perfect”.

A few days days later, I was fortunate to travel through Tokyo by taxi to the “Kabuki-za”, oldest of the Kabuki theatres. This massive structure rests on an entire city block, complete with the theatre with 90-foot stage, plus restaurants galore and vendor shops. I attended a five-hour performance of  ……………………..and “The Fox”.  Appropriately, Ka-bu-ki  is the truly amazing combustion of Ka (song) bu(dance) ki(text). It is, at once, the most physically exciting, intellectually challenging and emotionally fulfilling performance art form on the planet, in my opinion. I say that because, as a “presentational” art form, it is pure design in action, with the mystery of the human heart at its center. What could be more compelling and aesthetically satisfying? In some quarters it has been compared to the Wagnerian “total theatre”, but in the Kabuki, you get less “angst” and more “elevated earthiness” than Wagner was ever able to fathom. After five hours of 50 minute segments separated by a 5-10 minute intermission during which the set is changed; at one point, an entirely new, clean stage flooring was laid down, I was transported. When the Fox (who has been known to “fly” over the audience), simply “elevated” up the side of the tree stage left, having acquired the object of his desire, the “Drum”, I rose with him to a  completeness of aesthetic fulfillment and delight.

And then there is Butoh. Originated as a direct emotional assault to the powers of westernization, it has now become a multi-faceted form taking on a diversity ranging from the traditional white-bodied other-worldliness, to the full-blown plummage of the mating peacock. The “Kazuo Ohno Festival” was happening during my stay, completed with a murmuring tribute to Kazuo himself. An empty wheelchair is pushed into the space strewn with sheaves of grass. The performer sits in the chair, then rises as if by magic, to dance among the leaves with flowers and balloons. The performer never returns to the wheelchair, saying to us, perhaps,  that Kazuo will go on dancing in heaven, or on earth, or wherever his spirit will choose to travel. (Kazuo Ohno is presently 103 years of age, very much alive, but not seen by the public at this time.) During my visit to the Ohno Studio in Yokohama, Kazuo’s son Yoshito (now 70 years of age) conducted the class. The event was like no other you can imagine, knowing that we were dancing in the same space where Kazuo lived his memorable Butoh creations.

Rosalie M. Jones © 2009



  “Dances of the Earth”,
Red Brick Warehouse #1, Yokohama, Japan

 Nakagawa Hiroshi Your browser may not support display of this image.

Nakagawa Hiroshi was born in 1955 in Yokohama, Japan. As a student in Tokyo University, he encountered Ainu language and has since been recording oral traditions of Ainu language of Hidaka and Chitose region of Hokkaido. Since 1985, he teaches at Chiba University, and is now a professor in Faculty of Letters, teaching Ainu Language and Literature. Since 1989, he joins the language revitalization movement of Ainu people in Tokyo and surrounding region, and currently teaches Ainu languages to Ainu people at Ainu Cultural Centre in Tokyo.  
Sakai Mina

Your browser may not support display of this image.Sakai Mina was born in 1983 in Obihiro, Hokkaido, Japan to an Ainu father and a Japanese mother. She began learning both modern dance and traditional Ainu dance at a young age. Ms. Sakai is active in spreading awareness about Ainu people and culture, while sharing her life story through various performances, lectures, workshops and other forums throughout Japan. In 2006, she founded Ainu Rebels, a group of emerging Ainu artists from Tokyo and its surrounding region, and currently serves as the group’s leader.  

 Santee Smith

Your browser may not support display of this image.Santee Smith is the Artistic Director and choreographer for Kaha:wi Dance Theatre. Born in 1971 in Mohawk Nation from Six Nations in Ontario, she holds a Masters Degree from York University and attended National Ballet School of Canada. Since 1996, she began creating her own choreography and developing a movement style that reflects who she is as an Indigenous artist. She presented the premiere of Kaha:wi 2004 at Premiere Dance Theatre in Toronto, and continues to create and present cutting edge contemporary Aboriginal dance works. In 2006, Kaha:wi Dance Theatre produced Living Ritual: World Indigenous Dance Festival, Canada’s inaugural dance festival dedicated Indigenous peoples’ dance of Canada and the world. 

Daystar/Rosalie Jones

Daystar/Rosalie Jones is the founder and Artistic Director of Daystar: Contemporary Dance-Drama of Indian America. The Company was incorporated in 1980, and has performed throughout the United States, Canada, and in Germany, Bulgaria and Turkey. Born on the Blackfeet Reservation in Montana, Daystar is of Pembina Chippewa ancestry on her mother’s side. She holds a Master’s Degree in dance from the University of Utah. Ms. Jones has pioneered the concept of “native modern dance” throughout the United States over the past 30 years. She currently teaches Indigenous Contemporary Dance and related performing arts courses at Trent University, Ontario and remains as active dancer, choreographer, teacher, and writer.  


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