PuSh Festival—Haptic + Holistic Strata by Hiroaki Umeda at Scotiabank Dance Centre
– review by Christine Redmond
Hiroaki Umeda returned to Vancouver’s PuSh Festival with his creation Haptic + Holistic Strata.
Since his departure from photography (which he left for economic reasons), Umeda has versed himself in the fields of lighting and sound design as well as dancing. In 2000, at just 23 years old, he formed the production company S20 and quickly earned recognition for his signature bewildering light designs.
Haptic + Holistic Strata, which Umeda performed at Scotiabank Dance Centre this past weekend, is composed of two pieces. The first piece Hapta opens with a narrow strip of blue light moving across the performance floor. After much suspense, the dark figure of Umeda emerges from the shadows.
As the light moves so too does Umeda, one limb at a time. His body movements increase in speed and complexity as the speed of the light and music quickens. The combination of vivid moving light with intense mechanical sounds and Umeda’s rapid movements are at times mesmerizing and at other times frightening- his stone cold stare never flinches.
The second part of the performance, Holistic Strata, is the show stopper.
It opens with a loud bang and the lone figure of Umeda covered in moving dots of bright, white light. It then jumps to a backdrop and floor projection of darting particles resembling stars. With this moving background behind and underneath him, Umeda appears like a dancing traveler lost in space.
The mechanical-sounding cranks and beeps of the accompanying music add to the disorienting experience and at times the piercing audio is almost unbearable. Umeda’s pop-and-lock movements, set against the visual landscape (which alternates from falling stars to TV static) are so surreal that it’s difficult to distinguish what exactly is happening.
For 30 minutes the audience is lost in a world of peculiar sound, light and movement. Just as he suggests, his works is to be felt and experienced rather than simply watched.