Accomplished dancer-choreographer-actor Hiromoto Ida skillfully merges dance, theatre, classical music and voice to tell the story of the old man, raising a glass of sake to himself in celebration on what will be his last birthday.
He will present Birthday Present for Myself at the Capitol Theatre on Feb. 29.
Reminiscing about the richness of his life experience, Ida’s character is visited by the spirit of his wife, played by soprano Allison Girvan.
The production features musicians Nicola Everton (clarinet), Sue Gould (piano), Jeff Faragher (cello), and Martine DenBok (violin and viola), performing an evocative original score by Russian composer Pavel Karmanov. The musicians sometimes interact with Girvan’s and Ida’s characters.
Inspired by the subtlety and simplicity of Japanese Noh theatre through western contemporary dance and music, Ida touches the hearts of audiences. Exploring a shared moment through the inner world and emotions of the old man, they are inspired to find unexpected beauty in their own lives through themes of love, transformation and regeneration.
Ida will perform part of the piece wearing a mask of the kind used in traditional Noh theatre, one of the oldest theatre traditions in the world.
The setting, a peaceful Zen garden, reinforces the concept of cycles and renewal. The combination of traditional Noh Theatre with modern dance expresses the old man’s character and inner world with poignant effectiveness.
“I see western culture giving messages of aging and getting old as being a negative element of one’s life,” says Ida, whose experience of growing up with his grandparents in Japan remains an inspiring memory for him. “Even when I was small I could feel something special about them.”
Girvan says the thematic material is important because it is about a man’s last day alive.
“And because it has this provocative title, it kind of feels celebratory, marking the day of his birth,” she told the Star on the occasion of the original 2016 production of Birthday Present for Myself. “It is a birthday present but is also his death day, and there are themes of control vs. acceptance and confusion vs. clarity.”
“That is not to say it is a heavy or depressing play,” she added. “Anyone who knows Hiro knows he has a wicked sense of humour and so there are moments that are very light, and the feeling at the end is of such hope and beauty that it will not leave people feeling heavy at all.”
Both actors have served as Nelson’s official cultural ambassador: Girvan in 2019 and Ida in 2015.
Ida received a funding award from the Columbia Kootenay Cultural Alliance to create and present Birthday Present for Myself. The performance premiered at the Capitol Theatre in Nelson in 2016.
Following the performance in Nelson in 2020, the show is touring to the international dance festival in Vancouver, Salt Spring Island, Vernon and Oliver. The project is also funded by the Canada Council and the BC Arts Council.
Tickets are $25 regular and $20 for students, and are available at capitoltheatre.ca, at the box office, or by phone at 250-352-6363.