Writer-director Suguru Yamamoto returns to Japan Society after the success of his Hanchu-Yuei collective’s 2017 production of Girl X with The Unknown Dancer in the Neighborhood, a one-man dance-theater piece featuring dancer-choreographer Wataru Kitao. In the ninety-minute show, which is running January 10-14 as part of the Public Theater’s Under the Radar Festival, the Tokyo-based Yamamoto explores ideas of anonymity, empathy, and death in an abstract urban environment where young people rely on texting to make connections. Kitao, founder of the dance ensemble Baobab, portrays multiple characters of different ages and genders as he moves across a stage with various props, police caution tape, and a back wall onto which text (in Japanese and English), video, and photographs are projected; meanwhile, the lighting shifts from reds, blues, and greens to grays and blacks.
“This is a dance performance and also a play,” the thirty-two-year-old Yamamoto (I Can’t Die without Being Born, Enjoyable Time) says in an Under the Radar promotional video. “The theme is the indifference of people living in a metropolis.” It might have been written about Yamamoto’s experiences in Tokyo, but it should feel right at home here in Gotham, although Yamamoto, who founded Hanchu-Yuei in 2007 and has cited such influences as Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and Woody Allen, is a bit worried. “I don’t know how such a performance is going to be received by a New York audience, but I hope it will catalyze something interesting.” The January 10 show will be followed by a meet-the-artists reception, while the January 11 show will be followed by an artist Q&A.