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OzAsia review: Split Flow & Holistic Strata


Blurring the boundaries between dance and art, man and image, Japanese dancer Hiroaki Umeda creates an experience both profound and beautiful.

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Hiroaki Umeda conceives the choreography, lighting, digital media and soundscape for his performances. Whether they are defined as dance performance or art installation is immaterial – they are astonishing experiences.

In Split Flow, Umeda appears in a light top and black pants, surrounded by a sea of black, and he slowly, hypnotically moves a hand, an arm, a shoulder in a kind of slow-motion rap. His movements are fluid, rhythmic, and at the same time the lighting changes state and the soundscape – industrial, electronic mechanical music, sometimes harsh and piercing and at others, a vibrating bass notes that penetrate the whole body.

Umeda builds the tempo and freneticism of the dance, and just when you think you know where it is going, side laser lights pierce his body and new patterns are created, a new dimension, a new work of art. He is illuminated in slivers of bright colours until he virtually disappears and only playful light remains. Silently, he glides across the stage and you wonder how he managed to travel so effortlessly.

In Holistic Strata, the white screen is revealed and Umeda takes his place centre stage. This time, in a sudden light change, his body seems to be transformed to that of an ultrasound image and just as quickly he is part of the universe, an ever-changing, dynamic cosmos. He seems to blend with it, then he controls it with beautiful precision; man and image are connected as one.

Later, Umeda seems to be dominated by the pressures of modern life, with loud jackhammers, bells and alarms. Any continuity is disrupted with a sudden change of lighting, silence or a new visual setting. Umeda continues to dance, energetically and beautifully throughout.

Split Flow & Holistic Strata is an extraordinary achievement both physically and conceptually. It shows how modern technology can be conceived as integral to a performance instead of as an adjunct, and that ingenuity and innovation can lead to experiences of immense power and beauty.

The final OzAsia performance of Split Flow & Holistic Strata will be at the Dunstan Playhouse tonight.

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