Powell Street Festival: Unselfish dance artist Hiromoto Ida aims for honesty in loving tribute to his mother

There are no fancy sets or costumes in Homecoming 2020, just a whole lot of heart

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      The name of Nelson dance artist Hiromoto Ida’s company, Ichigo-Ichieh New Theatre, carries a special significance to him.

      The Japanese phrase ichi-go ichi-e is often associated with Japanese tea ceremonies and can be translated as “for this time only” or “once in a lifetime”.

      “The meeting between the guest and host occurs only that time in your life in the universe, even if the same guest comes tomorrow,” Ida tells the Straight by phone.

      “So basically, live in the moment because this moment will never come back to you in your life anymore," he continues. "Take care of each moment with a laugh and by caring for other people.”

      This philosophy underscores Ida’s approach to dance. He sees himself as like an unselfish host at a Japanese tea ceremony, thinking only of how to look after his visitor. In this regard, he the antithesis of the stereotypical self-centred, egotistical performing artist.

      “I always like to say this is for the guest—this is for the audience,” Ida declares. “It’s not about me.”

      In Homecoming 2020, a solo dance tribute to his 89-year-old Japanese mother that’s coming to the Powell Street Festival, Ida performs to the words of famous 20th-century Japanese poets Kenji Miyazawa and Noriko Ibaragi. Ida is the narrator, with his voice coming through the speakers.

      The veteran dancer admits that it’s not easy. That’s because he feels the poets’ words are already perfect and he doesn’t want to make a mess of their art with his movements.

      Again, his unselfish nature comes through as he explains that as a mature artist, he’s more interested in highlighting what others can do rather than shoving himself into the spotlight.

      “I’m the one showing other people’s work to the audience but in a more creative way,” Ida says. “I always think performers are giving a gift to someone.”

      Homecoming 2020 came about as a result of the Made in B.C. Dance Tour, which was funded by the Vancouver Foundation Digital Products Fund.

      Ida describes it as being the dance equivalent of “nice, organic, homemade food”. There are no fancy costumes or music or elaborate sets, just a great deal of honesty coming from his heart and his 60-year-old body.

      In the 1990s, Ida was a Vancouver-based dancer and actor. He only discovered the beauty of the Kootenays when travelling with Karen Jamieson Dance.

      At that time, he felt a strong connection to the New Denver area, which is home to the Nikkei Internment Memorial Centre, sensing that he might like to have a family in this beautiful region. Ida says it was almost like he felt that he had lived there before.

      The Nikkei Internment Memorial Centre also taught him, as a Japanese immigrant to Canada, of the difficulties that Canadian-born people of Japanese ancestry faced during the Second World War.

      He was already well aware of his mother's suffering during and after the war. She's a resident of Tokyo, which was bombed, plus she lived through a horrific famine after the end of hostilities.

      One of the poems that Ida dances to in Homecoming 2020 revolves around the feelings of a woman who feels that she was cheated by the war because she lost the years when she was most beautiful. The woman in this poem is about the same age as his mother, so it really resonates with him.

      After getting married, Ida and his physiotherapist wife moved to Nelson to raise their two young children, who are now grown up. And much to Ida’s surprise, the solitude that he felt in the outdoors in the Kootenays really spurred his creativity.

      “There’s no noise, so I’m always facing my inside,” Ida says. “I really want to tell what I’m really feeling these days.”

      He misses his mom, who still lives in Tokyo and whom he hasn’t seen since the pandemic began. His dream is to bring Homecoming 2020 to the country were he was born.

      “I’m leaving August 1 to go back to Japan for the first time after COVID happened,” Ida says. “Finally, I can see her."