New film features unique partnership between Tokyo and Inis Oírr

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A short film featuring a unique dance collaboration between the smallest of the Aran Islands and the Japanese capital will have its online premiere next week.

Echoes of Calling – Encounter features sean-nós singing, Irish and Japanese contemporary dance, and combines a January stage performance in Tokyo with the wild landscapes of Connemara.

The partnership between Tokyo and Inis Óirr came about after acclaimed Japanese dance choreographer Akiko Kitamura was inspired by her visit to the west of Ireland in 2019.

Akiko Kitamura used online workshops and rehearsals to collaborate with three dancers on the short piece which will premiere on Friday 23 April as part of the Galway 2020 programme.

The film is the result of a partnership between Áras Éanna Inis Oírr, Galway 2020 and EU Japan Fest, and Executive Producer Siobhán O’Malley liaised between the partners in Ireland and Japan to make the project a reality.

Akiko Kitamura was captivated by Donegal sean-nós singer Doimnic Mac Giolla Bhríde when he performed at Áras Éanna during her stay on Inis Oírr.

Doimnic Mac Giolla Bhríde and Diane Cannon are included in a stage performance of Echoes of Calling, with an ensemble of Japanese contemporary dancers, which premiered in Tokyo in January 2021.

Kitamura was set to return to Galway and Inis Oírr to stage this performance before the culmination of the European Capital of Culture programme this Spring.

But due to COVID restrictions she had to work via Zoom with Galway Dance Project dancers Magdalena Hylak, Stephanie Dufresne and Mintesot Wolde to create a site-specific piece for film, relating to the themes of the Tokyo show.

Filming took place in South Connemara with film maker Laura Sheeran, who worked closely with Kitamura’s film editor in Tokyo.

“We shared ideas with dancers and filmmakers in Ireland who we haven’t met yet, discussed with each other over Zoom, combined our methods of expression, and rose to the challenge of creating a video work that would be a journey to explore new physical expressions,” said Akiko Kitamura.

“I have experience of collaborating remotely, but it was the first time I had united my heart with artists I had never met.”

The Artistic Director of Áras Éanna, Dara McGee, said the most westerly arts centre in Europe was honoured to be a part of this exciting international project and he hopes to continue to develop this working relationship with Japanese colleagues and the Galway Dance Project into the future.

He said that due to the coronavirus restrictions, it was decided that filming for the Irish part of the project would take place in South Connemara, looking out on Galway Bay and Inis Oírr.

“Under the direction of Akiko, who had been working online with the dancers, we had a schedule for what exactly we needed for the piece, in order to tie in with the work that has been done in Japan,” explained Dara McGee.

“There was a cold breeze, but the dancers were great and we got some beautiful footage which is being edited in Japan.”

McGee said that Kitamura had requested sean-nós singers for the Tokyo performance in January and it was a “wonderful coincidence” that she had seen Doimnic perform at Aras Eanna during her short stay on Inis Oírr.

“I really think this is an ongoing project and we are really thinking of extending this project into 2022,” he added.

“We really feel there is something special happening with this collaboration between Ireland and Japan and it would be a shame if we couldn’t develop this further and bring a full production to Ireland, hopefully in 2022.”

Marilyn Gaughan Reddan, Head of Programme at Galway 2020 stated: “We are really delighted to provide so many of our cultural partners with new international partnerships and opportunities.

“The relationship between Aras Eanna and EU Japan Fest will lead to many more beautiful opportunities in the future and this is such a wonderful opportunity to showcase the wealth of talent and indeed landscape here to a global audience, this is again another example of really great partnership and collaboration facilitated by Galway 2020 and will indeed be a great legacy.”

The online premiere for ‘Echoes of Calling – Encounter’ will take place on Friday, April 23, from 1.00pm – 2.00pm and the film will be available to view online at the Aras Eanna Inis Oirr YouTube channel. The project will be launched at an online event featuring a Q&A with participants in Japan and Ireland at 1:00pm Irish time on April 23.

To view the event, check out the Aras Eanna Ionad Ealaine page on Facebook.