333 East 47th St. at First Ave.
Friday, May 2, and Saturday, May 3, $30, 7:30 PM
There was something serendipitous about Japan Society’s presentation of Project IX — Pléïades on May 2, the North American premiere of this exciting collaboration between Japanese percussionist Kuniko Kato, Japanese dancer Megumi Nakamura, and Italian choreographer Luca Veggetti. The finale of the sixtieth anniversary season of the cultural institution’s performing arts program — “a benchmark signifying longevity and rebirth,” artistic director Yoko Shioya has pointed out — Pléïades begins slowly, as Nakamura assembles Kato’s percussion kit at front right, from pieces that had been placed around the set. Soon, Hiroyoshi Takishima’s video is projected onto a horizontal scrim set at an angle on the stage. Takishima’s film shows six performances by Kato side-by-side, as if she is her own band; in each one she is playing one of the six different parts of Greek-French composer’s Iannis Xenakis’s percussive score. As Kato lies down behind the screen and Nakamura moves ever-so-gracefully in front of it, the projection shoots onto the ceiling above the audience, resulting in long, narrow abstract images that seem to form visual representations of Xenakis’s thrilling experimental work; meanwhile, Nakamura’s enlarged shadow can be seen on the right wall, giving further emphasis and beauty to Veggetti’s choreography. Although these appear to be purposeful extensions of the performance, it turns out that they are accidental bonuses that have occurred because of the shape and size of Japan Society’s auditorium. (At a reception after the show, Veggetti confirmed that they were indeed serendipitous accidents that everyone involved gave their blessing to.) The four sections of Pléïades are followed by Xenakis’s Rebonds, in which Nakamura continues her elegant movement and Kato situates herself at her percussion kit, playing her drums with a visual splendor that melds beautifully with Nakamura. Project IX — Pléïades, which continues May 3, is a wonderful conclusion to Japan Society’s sixtieth performing arts season.