Transforming a Medieval Saga Into a Contemporary Ballad and Dance Performance

Fr10Nov(Nov 10)14:30Sa11(Nov 11)16:00Transforming a Medieval Saga Into a Contemporary Ballad and Dance PerformanceWorkshop and Performance with Hiromi ItoVeranstaltungsartPerformance,Workshop


Organised by Irmela Hiijiya-Kirschnereit, Research Area 2: “Travelling Matters”.

Japanese poet and writer Hiromi Ito, the 2022 Dorothea Schlegel artist-in-residence, wrote a contemporary version of one of the best-known medieval Japanese Buddhist legends, the saga of Sansho, a cruel bailiff and feudal lord who banishes a virtuous governor to a far-off province. The latter’s wife and two children are separated as the boy Zushiō and the girl Anju are sold into slavery. The children endure numerous hardships before they can set out to look for their parents. This tale of filial piety, vice and treachery, self-sacrifice and salvation, existed in various versions told by itinerant storytellers. The legend was adapted as traditional Bunraku and Kabuki theatre, and modern versions include a story by author Mori Ogai (1915) and one of the most famous motion pictures of cinema history by Kenji Mizoguchi (Silver Lion, Venice 1954). Ito’s modern feminist version of 1993 is entitled “I am Anju himeko” (Ich bin Prinzess Anju, tr. Irmela Hijiya-Kirschnereit) and focuses on the fate of Anju, who is cruelly abused by various men but survives and meets other legendary figures from Japanese folktales. For this workshop, Itō will prepare a transformation of the saga into a contemporary performance together with the Berlin-based Japanese Butō artist and director Yuko Kaseki, accompanied by musical improvisations by the US-based koto-player Kanoko Nishi.

The workshop will analyse the various layers of transformation and translation between expressive media, including the role of and interplay with music and video installations. It will highlight the literary, social and cultural-historical aspects of the subject, including Itō’s critical deconstructions, and discuss, among others, issues of historical and contemporary transculturation, Butō-choreopolitics and the application of Butō as a choreographic intervention.

Languages: German and English.


Friday, 10 November 2023

14:30 | Registration

15:00 | Karin Gludovatz, Matthias Warstat (Freie Universität Berlin/EXC TC): Begrüßung

Irmela Hijiya-Kirschnereit (Freie Universität Berlin/EXC TC): Einführung in Thematik und Projekt

16:00 | Coffee break

16:30 | Katja Centonze (Università Ca’ Foscari Venezia): Waiting for Itō Hiromi, Kaseki Yūko and Nishi Kanoko’s Performance. Corporeal Words Dancing Sonic Friction

17:30 | Lindsey Drury (Freie Universität Berlin/EXC TC): Bodies of Empire, Bodies of Others: Dance in Medieval Asia through the Lens of the Period’s European Authors

18:30 | Reception

Saturday, 11 November 2023

10:00 | Gabriele Brandstetter (Freie Universität Berlin): Butō in fusion – A comment on the activist work of Yuko Kaseki

11:00 | Coffee break

Transfer to the performance venue, Holzlaube, lecture hall -1.2009 (basement), Fabeckstraße 23-25, 14195 Berlin (Admission starting from 11:30)

12:00 | Irmela Hijiya-Kirschnereit (Freie Universität Berlin/EXC TC): Kurzeinführung in die Ballade “Ich bin Prinzess Anju”

12:15 | Hiromi Ito, Yuko Kaseki, Kanoko Nishi: Performance “Ich bin Prinzess Anju”

Accompanied by a video installation by Tomoko Mori and Sae Esashi

13:15 | Discussion

Moderation: Irmela Hijiya-Kirschnereit

Transfer to the Cluster building, room 00.05, Otto-von-Simson-Straße 15, 14195 Berlin

14:00 | Lunch break

15:00 | Joint evaluation of the performance and future scope of the project


Irmela Hijiya-Kirschnereit, Berlin: Einführung in Thematik und Projekt

  1. Wie kam es dazu?
  2. Der Workshop + Performance – ein besonderes Format. Und karmische Verbindungen
  3. Die Autorin Hiromi Ito – eine “Schamanin der Literatur”
  4. Der Stoff, die Legende von Sansho Dayu, dem “bösen Landvogt”
  5. Itos Version “Ich bin Prinzess Anju”
  6. Literarische und andere Besonderheiten des Texts: Itos vielfältige Transformationen

Katja Centonze, Venice: Waiting for Itō Hiromi, Kaseki Yūko and Nishi Kanoko’s Performance: Corporeal Words Dancing Sonic Friction

This presentation will examine ways of approaching corporeality in performance and literature by focusing on the wide array of words that surround, sustain and recreate bodies in Japanese language. In particular, attention will be drawn to specific aspects of Butō-choreopolitics in relation to its influential role in the critical debates on body and words, which animated the androcentric culture of the 1960s. I will address questions concerning political engagement in challenging performance, the shift from the nikutai-centred culture to the shintai-centred culture, as I call it, and the positioning of female performers following the ‘theatrical turn’ in Butō during the 1970s in connection to Dairakudakan’s history, thereby tracing the path towards the experimental practices of Berlin-based artist Kaseki Yūko.

Lindsey Drury, Berlin: Bodies of Empire, Bodies of Others: Dance in Medieval Asia through the Lens of the Period’s European Authors

After the Mongolian invasion of Europe, medieval Europeans were fascinated with ‘the East’ as shaped by empire, ingenuity, tolerance, social progress and wide-reaching infrastructures. At the time, Japan was for Europeans at the outer border of the Mongol Empire and thus beyond the limits of intelligibility — nonetheless, medieval storytelling of Japanese people and their cultures emerged within European travel accounts.

In this paper, I approach this history of storytelling as a scholar of dance. I consider the legacy of medieval European accounts of dance in the ‘East’ and their impact on the current European historicisation. I also explore how medieval European travel accounts constructed forms of ‘Othering’ and consider how medieval storytelling and travel accounts have informed a globalist vision of dance and the dancing body both in the rise of dance anthropology in the nineteenth century as well as in contemporary European visions of dance art.

Gabriele Brandstetter, Berlin: Butō in fusion – A comment on the activist work of Yuko Kaseki

From the beginning of Butō, the modes of moving, the concept of the body and the idea of transformation were based on a very specific fusion of different dance cultures between East and West. The following generations of Butō dancers went on, working with techniques and media of transforming traditional body concepts – including a situated critical view of body diversity and dance aesthetics. Yuko Kaseki reworks this concept of Butō by asking how its transformative power relates to a non-binary way of thinking.

My comment on her performance follows her critical interpretation of principles of Butō and asks how she creates an activist choreographic intervention that allows her to replay and dissimulate cross-cultural stereotypes of the female body.

Freie Universität Berlin
EXC 2020 “Temporal Communities”
Otto-von-Simson-Straße 15
14195 Berlin

Freie Universität Berlin
Lecture Hall -1.2009 (basement)
Fabeckstr. 23-25
14195 Berlin

Please register by 7 November 2023: Please indicate whether you will be attending the workshop and the performance or only the performance.

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10. November 2023 14:30 - 11. November 2023 16:00(GMT+02:00)

Freie Universität Berlin

Habelschwerdter Allee 45, 14195 Berlin

Freie Universität Berlin