I was asked to serve as Kodo's artistic director and I accepted the position. It is my first time to serve as a company's artistic director, and with one eye on the future of the group, I turn my attention to audiences and what we can do to touch them on deeper levels.
It may seem redundant to touch upon the group's origins, but Kodo formed as a new performing arts ensemble using classical Japanese instruments. With regional folk arts as their fundamental tools, they devised contemporary techniques and styles to make new arrangements for the stage. Forging an indelible place in the world of Japanese performing arts, in 2011 the group celebrated its 30th anniversary.
I have been visiting Sado Island regularly for the past 10 years to work with Kodo, directing the performances "Kodo One Earth Tour Special" and "Dadan," as well as appearing on stage alongside Kodo in "Amaterasu." Through my involvement with these productions, I realized the importance of confining yourself to one specific place to train. Getting away from the city where you are surrounded by technology, you face yourself, come face to face with your purest form, and begin to reflect about who you are as a human being and as a performer. In the natural surroundings of Sado, you can experience a rare opportunity to get back in touch with your own soul and can even sometimes feel the concealed breath of ancient times on your own skin. However, the decision to live and train on Sado cannot be a means of escape from society and the city, but rather an exercise in learning how to communicate the importance of this experience to others. I fully realize the difficulty of crafting a performance on Sado to be shown in a city theater, and of developing productions that will speak to contemporary audiences. To cultivate simplicity as well as brilliance, to tap into the local flavor of the island and also create something that speaks to our time; this is the task at hand. It is needless to say how difficult it is to create productions that not only satisfy audiences, but also challenge them. Therein lies the crux of my responsibilities as artistic director.
Every element of humanity is mixed within the performing arts. The pure and impure, good and evil, beauty and ugliness, gods and demons. Living on an island that is inherently isolated, one must make one's own choices about both sides of these conflicting matters. As human beings born either as men or women, we all confront the difficulty going beyond gender into a new realm of expression. Island, sea, plants, the cry of insects, flowers, the morning and evening breeze, sunlight, clusters of stars… Human beings cannot exist without nature. That is why we use the arts to communicate nature, and it is only when we become free from impeding thoughts that we can become one with it. Facing the taiko, having acquired sufficient technique and control, players can forget their body, awareness, desires, hopes, and egos the moment they reach that state of oneness, and everyone who is present will share that indescribable sense of transcendence.
My goal is to challenge the members of Kodo who train on Sado to reach that state, and this challenge is also my own. As I know you can try your whole life and never get there, this role in some ways represents my own test. I want to work towards this together, embrace our dreams, and simply practice.
Regarding future productions, while maintaining Kodo's signature drumming style as a basic foundation, I will do my best to lead Kodo in new directions with different performance styles and stage formations. I envision making productions that are visually beautiful and viscerally satisfying, where the audience catches a glimpse of wit within profundity, and in which we gaze into the depths of our very souls.
Kabuki Actor Tamasaburo Bando is currently Japan's leading female-role actor. He is featured in new dramas, modern plays and foreign works. As a dancer, has collaborated with artists in various fields including Yo-Yo Ma (cello) and Maurice Béjart (ballet choreographer). As a film director and artistic director, his work has been praised for both its beauty and originality.