Penny Loosemore at the International Composers Festival

It’s not often a Japanese composer and a contemporary dance troupe wash up on English shores, but this weekend they did. As part of the International Composers Festival – three days celebrating the work of 50 living composers from around the world – the programme included a fusion of Japanese dance and music. Composed by Nobuya Monta, The Crane’s Wife was part of the last of five concerts forming this biannual event, held at the De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill, and the Opus Theatre in Hastings.

Dancing Around the World, the finale concert held at the De La Warr on September 23rd, started with six specially commissioned symphonic dances by composers from Arabia to Mexico. All six pieces in the first half were charmingly accompanied by youngsters from the Eastbourne Academy of Dancing and the Diana Freedman School of Dance who appeared in an exotic array of costumes, from sweeping flamenco dresses for Polo Piatti’s rousing Argentinian number, to natty sailor’s outfits for the concluding piece, a wonderfully foot-stomping Hastings Hornpipe by Simon Proctor. The young dancers added a freshness to the performance and the sophisticated choreography captured the feel of each country down to a tee.

The second half saw the stage transformed into a feast of music and movement by the Niconimiel Dance Company from Osaka. Japanese composer Nobuya Monta’s orchestral piece The Crane’s Wife felt almost English, with beautiful sweeping melodic lines and a hint of the Orient. It was accompanied by five dancers in minimalist Japanese outfits against a stark black background, creating a very striking but simple effect. Their movements were exceptionally graceful and fluid – contemporary dance with a balletic twist. The principal dancer and choreographer Masu Uesugi imbued her lead role with passion and tenderness as the sad tale, based on a traditional Japanese fairy story, unfolded over the course of an hour. The full-scale orchestra, known as the International Festival Orchestra, did full credit to the music, delivering a subtle and heartfelt performance under the guidance of charismatic conductor John Andrews.

Nobuya Monta, who studied in Kyoto as well as Goldsmiths in London, showed how effectively dance can be combined with music. And it’s a tribute to the forward-thinking organiser/artistic director of the Festival, Polo Piatti, that this cutting-edge work as well as much of the other music during the weekend was given a platform. It is Piatti’s mission to expose audiences to modern but accessible ‘classical’ music, from living composers. “I wish to show people how innovative and engaging new ‘classical’ orchestral music can be, and how it can appeal across the generations and even across musical tastes.” This inspired combination of freshly composed music and dance certainly seemed to do the trick – as the rapturous applause at the end of The Crane’s Wife proved!

PICTURES: Peter Mould

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