Enmei dancers explore female aging

Lifestyle | 17 Feb |

Enmei (Long Life) is more than just a dance performance coming to Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts on Friday, March 23, at 8 p.m., in the Virginia G. Piper Theater. It’s a cross-cultural artistic project about age, time and culture via the older moving body. 

Six dancers from Japan and the United States — ranging in age from 45 to 73 — will explore what it means and what it takes to age as a woman in the field of contemporary dance. Enmei (Long Life): A Dance and Aging Project is designed to challenge notions of the aging female body and to celebrate the endurance of the human spirit.

Enmei (Long Life) is a collaboration between Japan- and Arizona-based choreographers and dancers. They are choreographer/performer Kei Takei, along with Mary Fitzgerald, Eileen Standley, Masako Kitaura, Laz Brezer and Rose Weitz, who also is a sociologist specializing in women and gender studies. Arizona composer Kotoka Suzuki wrote the music.

The performers came together through the mutual interest of exploring how their respective cultures value the body, age and the aging process. During Enmei (Long Life), the dancers’ personal and emotional geographies are embedded, embodied and embraced by their culture and environment. 

Takei, a Tokyo native, studied at The Julliard School on a Fulbright scholarship in the late 1960s. Her New York City performances through the years resulted in several features and reviews in The New York Times, which has called her dancing “bewitching.” Takei moved back to Tokyo in 1992 but recently returned to the New York dance scene to perform at a festival focusing on female choreographers. 

According to The New York Times, “Whatever country she calls home, Ms. Takei is, happily, a creature of the theater.”

The first phase of Enmei (Long Life) was presented in June at Arizona State University for the academic community; the official public premiere is March 23 at the Center. Additionally, as part of a Japan Foundation grant, the Center is co-producing a tour that will take the show on the road to Links Hall in Chicago in April.

The Center also will offer a master class workshop for aspiring dance professionals and members of two area senior centers. The workshop will address the research for Enmei (Long Life), as well as integrating creative movement and design practices for diverse ages and abilities.

Enmei (Long Life) is part of the Center’s Discovery Series, which offers an in-depth exploration of Japanese culture throughout the 2017-18 season, including live performances, films, education programs and other presentations. These events culminate with the Yo! Matsuri Discovery Japan Festival from 6-10 p.m. on April 6 at Scottsdale Civic Center Park. Visit ScottsdalePerformingArts.org/upcoming-events/discovery/.

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