Project Godie ‘Dance of Darkness’ sheds light on Anglo-Japanese heritage
Project Godie is a multi platform heritage programme that will take audiences on a journey through Anglo-Japanese history, celebrating the north east of England’s strong links with Japan through dance, music, film and literature.
The programme will launch with a performance that places Butoh at its heart – which is why producers Nicole Vivien Watson and Adam Denton went straight to the heart of Butoh to inform their work. Commissioning critically-acclaimed, New York Butoh artist, Vangeline (“Captivating” New York Times), Los Angeles Times, (“moves with the clockwork deliberation of a practiced Japanese Butoh artist”) and having had the opportunity to spend time with late Butoh co-founder, Kazuo Ohno, Nicole Vivien Watson, Creative Director of Newcastle-based Surface Area Dance Theatre has prepared a solid training ground for her company’s first Butoh performance. Alongside co-producer and cultural researcher Adam Denton (who will also be providing the audio backdrop through sonic performance duo Trans/Human)
Funded by Heritage Lottery Fund, Project Godie will take a multi-disciplinary approach, opening with a Butoh performance, that will lead to archive exhibits, commissioned essays, film and an interactive website to encourage community engagement. Additionally, community groups Search and St James Culture and Heritage Centre in the Elswick area of Newcastle will also take part in a range of events including writing and movement workshop.
Nicole Vivien Watson: “It is widely acknowledged that the region has experienced cultural and commercial exchanges with Japan, the beginnings of which can be found geographically on the banks of the River Tyne in Elswick through its shipbuilding heritage. The legacy we see today is the region’s strong business relations with Japan”.
Adam Denton: “We feel there is so much more to discover and our research activities will continue beyond the project’s launch and into the Autumn, culminating with a presence within The Discovery Museum’s permanent exhibition space in Newcastle.”
With thanks to Zoya Ochiai and Mina Mizohata for interpretation.
Photography by Adam Denton
Nicole Vivien Watson meets artists and participants from Japanese Theatre of the Deaf. Thank you for the kind and welcoming introduction to Japanese Sign Language!
The Hijikata Tatsumi archive was acquired by the Art Center in April 1998, as the first initiative in constructing ‘research archives.’ As a central figure of the 1960s avant-garde, Hijikata collaborated with a nuber of representative artists of the time in creating his butoh performances. As works of ‘trans-artistry,’ rather than mere examples of ‘performance art,’ this model supplied a particular apt starting point for the creation of our ‘research archives.’ Practically speaking, we were also particularly lucky to receive a majority of the materials in an already collected and ordered form from the Hijikata Memorial Archive (Asbestos-Kan, Meguro, Tokyo). The mission of the Art Center is to preserve the life of such materials in a cultural environment that tends to prefer more establishment art forms.
The ‘research archive’ consists mainly of material resources, and more recently a ‘digital archive’ that makes use of various digital media and data gathering systems. Although it remains an archive of primarily material documents, we have also begun to focus on digitalizing resources. Our current work therefore entails both the organization and exhibitions of documents, and the simultaneous construction of a database of digital archives.
With thanks to Mr Morishita for his generosity and expertise.
Over two years ago, Nicole and Adam began discussing Project Godie and now the pair embark upon the devising of a regionally specific creative endeavour, which includes a fascinating and compelling international dimension of research. The starting point of which is Little Godie.
“As early as 1873, A Japanese acrobatic troupe,’Tanaker’s Japanese’, performed in Sunderland at the Victoria Hall. A rather poignant memorial of their stay in the North East can be found in Bishopwearmouth Cemetery in Sunderland were Godie the young son of the touring performers, was buried following an illness. His gravestone reads;
Here lies Little Godie, who died February 21, 1873.
Aged 15 month, the only son of Omoterson and Godie,
natives of Japan, members of Tannakers Japanese.
This is the first Japanese monument erected in Great Britain”
(Japan and the North East of England, From 1862 to the Present Day, Marie Conte-Helm, First published 1989 by the Althone Press Ltd)
Surface Area Dance Theatre are delighted to announce that the company’s First Steps – Community Action Plan, has been reviewed by Community Development Foundation and will be published next month.
“With support from the Daiwa Foundation and The Great British Sasakawa Foundation, Company Director, Nicole Vivien Watson in collaboration with Adam Denton will undertake a period of investigation in Japan from April to May 2016. This extended period of time will award Nicole and Adam the opportunity to meet with butoh artists living in Kanazawa, explore the Tatsumi Hijikata archive housed within Keio University – Tokyo, participate in butoh workshops lead by Mr. Yoshito Ohno and visit the sacred shrine of Izumo Oyashiro. The experiences and research gained from the visit shall support Nicole and Adam to develop artistic endeavors in the North of England, scheduled to begin in July 2016.
Both artists give particular thanks to Andrew Stevens, Senior Research Fellow – Japan Local Government Centre and Prof. Stephen Barber from Kingston University London.”
Surface Area Dance Theatre in collaboration with visual artist Yorgos Maraziotis and sound artist Klunks, performed A Mountain of Black Stones, at Beton 7 in Athens on the 12th and 13th of February 2016. With thanks to Beton7, The British Council Athens and The Embassy of Norway.
From the 18th of January, Director Nicole Vivien Watson will be consulting Associate Professor Elena Cervellati, Università di Bologna and accessing the rare Archivio Ohno. This is a cherished opportunity for Nicole and one that she has wished to undertake, since her first meeting with Mr. Ohno in 2007, at his residents in Yokohama. Findings from the visit will inform the company’s forthcoming creative endeavors and cultural exchanges in the UK and Japan.
‘Kazuo Ohno is an extraordinary figure of Japanese butoh dance and one of the most interesting personalities in the world theatre scene of the last decades. On October 27th 2001, on the occasion of his 95th birthday, the Maestro signed an agreement in Tokyo, sanctioning the donation of a copy of the materials contained in his archive to the Department of Music and Performing Arts of the Alma Mater Studiorum – University of Bologna. Such material has recently been properly rearranged by Toshio Mizohata’. (http://box.dar.unibo.it/muspe/wwcat/biblio/ohno/archives.html)