A dance to connect Tokyo with Inis Oirr

A dance to connect Tokyo with Inis Oirr

A unique partnership between one of the largest cities in the world and the smallest of the Aran Islands comes to fruition this month!

Acclaimed Japanese dance choreographer, Akiko Kitamura has used online workshops and rehearsals to collaborate with three West of Ireland dancers on a short piece inspired by her visit to Inis Oírr, Connemara, and Galway in 2019. Echoes of Calling – Encounter is the result of a partnership between Áras Éanna Inis Oírr, Galway 2020 and EU Japan Fest, bringing the most westerly arts centre in Europe together with dancers from Galway Dance Project, sean-nós singers from Co Donegal, and one of the most acclaimed contemporary dance choreographers in the greater metropolis of Tokyo. The result will have its online premiere on Friday, April 23, as part of Galway 2020 European Capital of Culture programme.

Executive producer, Siobhán O’Malley liaised between the partners in Japan and Ireland to make this exciting dance project happen. It will be presented as a short film, which follows Kitamura’s process of enquiry into the co-existence of human beings and nature following her visit to Inis Oírr in 2019. Kitamura was due to return to Galway and Inis Oírr to stage this performance before the culmination of the European Capital of Culture programme this Spring, but the coronavirus restrictions prevented this, so she worked 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. The resulting short film includes Japanese and Irish contemporary dance, Irish sean-nós singing, and connects the performance in a Tokyo theatre in January with the wild and barren landscape of Connemara and Inis Oírr.

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

Inis Oirr Tokyo Dance

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 1pm – 2pm and the film will be available to view online at the Aras Eanna Inis Oirr You Tube channel. The project will be launched at an online event featuring a Q&A with participants in Japan and Ireland at 1pm Irish time on April 23. To view the event, please check out the Aras Eanna Ionad Ealaine page on Facebook

Feature Photo by Laura Sheeran