East met West on Wednesday night in UB's Center for the Arts' Drama Theatre in a program of dance and mime that featured internationally acclaimed Japanese mime artist Yass Hakoshima and local ballet star Sergio Neglia, artistic director, and principal dancer of Buffalo's Neglia Ballet Artists.
The mixed program of Eastern and Western influenced dance and movement was part of Buffalo's Year of Japan Project, celebrating the city's relationship with sister-city Kanazawa, Japan.
The program began with Neglia and five student dancers performing Vaslav Nijinsky's 1912 masterpiece L'Apres-midi d'un Faune (Afternoon of a Faun).
Made famous by the Ballet Russes, the ballet tells the story of the half man half animal's encounter with a group of nymphs. Set to composer Claude Debussy's languid and flowing score, Neglia and the ballet's other dancers moved through Nijinsky's specific movement vocabulary that had them traveling horizontally across the stage with flattened hands and flattened profile to varying degree. While Neglia performance was articulate and calculated, the five nymphs showed a lack of patience and sharpness in executing Nijinsky's movement for the work.
After an extended musical interlude by clarinetist Sal Andolina, Neglia returned in another Ballets Russes favorite, an excerpt from Michel Fokine's Petroushka with music by Igor Stravinsky. In the role of the tortured puppet Petroushka who is left alone in locked room, Neglia was spot-on portraying the caged and saddened puppet. His blend of dance technique, mime, and expressive facial expressions culled instantaneous empathy from the audience, showing an emotional depth in his performance not often seen in his familiar storybook ballet roles. The program's second half opened with the world premiere of Insane Shogun, choreographed by Hakoshima and Neglia and set to traditional Japanese music.
In it, Hakoshima portrayed a crazed and somewhat bungling Shogun (governor) whose glory days were well in his past. Imagining an assassin, portrayed by Neglia (in full Ninja outfit) was out to kill him, Hakoshima's character accidentally fought off the assassin's advances all the while trying unsuccessfully to commit suicide.
Clever and humorous, the night's only work to feature both artists together was a true delight.
The program concluded with three solos choreographed and performed by the Hakoshima.
In Gyofu (fisherman), Hakoshima portrayed another bungling yet endearing character of a fisherman who constantly got his line caught while trying to cast it into the water.
The program closed with Hakoshima's signature work Washi (eagle).
"East Meets West"
Featuring Yass Hakoshima and Sergio Neglia on Wednesday in the University at Buffalo Center for the Arts.