A workshop production of Salaryman, as his new dance is called (the name was inspired by a Japanese pop song) will be presented at Kaatsbaan International Dance Center in Tivoli on April 22, as part of Ueyama’s weeklong residency at the glorious space. The performance is a preview for the official opening of the piece at the Dance Theater Workshop, located at West 19th Street in Manhattan, on May 18.
Ueyama was inspired to create a dance based on a day in the life of these overworked businessmen while on a trip to Japan three years ago. “I was drinking and eating with my friends, who are salarymen,” he said. “I realized they don’t get respect for what they do. I asked my friend, ‘Are you happy?’ and he said ‘No, but I have to do this – I have a family.’ They all say that. Japanese people have that personality where they sacrifice their life for the company or the country.”
In contradistinction to the drab routine of the business world, the dance is dynamic, refracting the dreams of his protagonists. “I created Salaryman as a dramatic, uplifting piece, rather than a sad drama,” Ueyama said. Fantasy is intertwined with mundane reality as ten dancers perform a series of vignettes, accompanied by a soundtrack reverberating with the ambient sounds of Tokyo and contemporary pieces by Laurie Anderson, Michael Gordon and Eve Beglarian, among others.
Although as of presstime, Ueyama had not yet located a projector, he was hopeful that the Kaatsbaan performance would include multimedia projections by filmmaker Yoko Takebe, including shots of two dancers in white shirts and black pants diving and swimming in the Yonkers pool. The set was designed by Yukinobu Okazaki.
While his native culture is central to his work, Ueyama himself escaped the strictures of conventional Japanese life thanks to his talent. He grew up in Tokyo and arrived in the US in 1991 to attend Juilliard, followed by an eight-year tenure with the Paul Taylor Dance Company, which ended in 2004 when he left to start his own dance company. That year, he also had his first residency at Kaatsbaan.
Unlike his salaryman friends back home, “I make my own decisions and do whatever I want. I was always this kind of kid who didn’t want to be part of a group,” the choreographer said. Yet Ueyama obviously has a deep love for his native culture and respect for its self-sacrificing aspect – a strength that he said will help the Japanese recover from the devastation caused by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. “Their innate stringent and steadfast norms are indicative not just of the corporate culture, but of the Japanese community as a whole, and will ultimately help the country thrive once again,” he said. At a time when the world’s attention has been focused on the Japanese’ plight, Salaryman is particularly auspicious, offering welcome insights into the country’s daily life and meanwhile pulsating with the poetic strophes of Ueyama’s particular imagination.
The performance starts at 6:30 and tickets are $15 general admission, $10 for students. For more information about Take Dance, visit www.takedance.org.