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The Dance Performance “Ich bin Princess Anju“/Watashi wa Anju himeko de aru on Nov. 11, 2023, was the highlight of a Workshop organized by Irmela Hijiya-Kirschnereit in the programme of Research Area 2 “Travelling Matters”.

The project originated as an offspin of an event with Japanese poet and writer Hiromi Itō, the 2022 Dorothea Schlegel artist-in-residence, whose 3 months’ stay in Berlin was dedicated to exploring a famous Japanese predecessor themed "In the Footsteps of Ōgai". 2022 marked the 100th anniversary of the death of the famous Japanese author and mediator of European literature to Japan, Mori Ōgai (1862-1922). The event titled “Inspiration Ōgai”, a cooperation between the EXC2020, the Japanese-German Center Berlin (JDZB) and the Mori Ogai Memorial Hall (MOG) at Humboldt University titled “Inspiration Ogai” featured one of Ogai’s most influential and best-known works to show his continuing reception into the 21st century. Ōgai’s tale "Sanshō, the Bailiff", which goes back to a medieval, Buddhist-influenced story, was later adapted in Bunraku puppet theatre, Kabuki and more. One of the most important films in cinema history, MIZOGUCHI Kenji's "Sanshō Dayū" (Silver Lion Venice 1954), was based on Ōgai's story. In 1993, Hiromi Itō had created a new version from a female perspective as a ballad, which she performed in the style of traditional travelling narrators. These elements were used in a new format to create an event in four parts of 30 minutes each. More on this experimental format, conceptualized by Irmela Hijiya-Kirschnereit, with Itō, and actors Lena Stolze and Rainer Strecker, is to be found here.

The new project, a transformation of Itō’s ballad into a dance performance, emerged when Irmela Hijiya-Kirschnereit had translated the whole text into German. As for the music, the core team decided on US-based experimental koto player Kanoko Nishi. And as the Japanese original text would be performed by its author, a visualization of text elements as a video projection would be essential for the audience in order to be able to follow the storyline, a task entrusted to Berlin-based Japanese artists. The location originally decided on in spring had to be abandoned on short notice because of technical problems, but the performance was successfully hosted to an audience of app. 120 persons in the lecture hall at the basement of Freie Universität’s Holzlaube, at the Department of History and Cultural Studies.

A number of felicitous connections facilitated the complex concept, as most of its actors had known each other beforehand. Since April 2023, regular online online working meetings of the participants took place across 3 continents (Japan, USA, Germany) to manage its organisation and realization, followed by two weeks of intensive and almost daily rehearsals in Berlin from late October. The following persons were involved in various functions:

Hiromi Ito: author of the ballad “Watashi wa Anju Himeko de aru”, performance
Irmela Hijiya-Kirschnereit, translator of „Ich bin Princess Anju“, organiser
Yuko Kaseki: dance and direction
Kanoko Nishi: music
Tomoko Mori and Sae Esashi: video
Antonio Carallo: artistic and choreographic advisor
Daniel Paiva de Miranda: light

The event was supported by the Ernst-Reuter-Gesellschaft der Freunde, Förderer & Ehemaligen der Freien Universität Berlin e.V, and the Division of International Affairs of Freie Universität Berlin.