Dance artist

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

The name of dance artist Nelson Hiromoto Ida’s company, Ichigo-Ichieh New Theatre, has a special meaning for him.

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

“The meeting between guest and host only takes place at this point in your life in the universe, even if the same guest comes tomorrow,” Ida tells the Right by telephone.

“So basically live in the moment because that moment will never come back in your life again,” he continues. “Take care of each moment by laughing and caring for others.”

This philosophy underpins Ida’s approach to dance. He sees himself as a selfless host at a Japanese tea ceremony, thinking only of how to deal with his visitor. In this regard, he is the antithesis of the stereotypical self-absorbed and egotistical performing artist.

“I always like to say it’s for the guest, it’s for the audience,” says Ida. “It’s not about me.”

In Homecoming 2020, a dance solo tribute to her 89-year-old Japanese mother who is coming to the Powell Street Festival, Ida performs the words of famous 20th-century Japanese poets Kenji Miyazawa and Noriko Ibaragi. Ida is the narrator, her voice coming from the loudspeakers.

The veteran dancer admits it’s not easy. This is because he feels the poets’ words are already perfect and he doesn’t want to mess up their art with his moves.

Again, his selfless nature shines through when he explains that as a mature artist, he’s more interested in highlighting what others can do rather than putting himself in the spotlight.

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

Homecoming 2020 was born out of the Made in BC Dance Tour, which was funded by the Vancouver Foundation Digital Products Fund.

Ida describes it as the dance equivalent of “good homemade organic food”. There are no fancy costumes, music or elaborate sets, just lots of honesty coming from her 60-year-old heart and body.

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

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

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

He was already well aware of his mother’s suffering during and after the war. She is a resident of Tokyo, which was bombed, and she experienced a horrible famine after the end of hostilities.

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

After their marriage, Ida and his physiotherapist wife moved to Nelson to raise their two young children, who are now adults. And to Ida’s surprise, the loneliness he felt outside in the Kootenays really sparked his creativity.

“There’s no noise, so I’m always facing my interior,” Ida says. “I really want to say how I really feel these days.”

He misses his mother, who still lives in Tokyo and whom he has not seen since the start of the pandemic. His dream is to bring Homecoming 2020 in the country where he was born.

“I’m leaving on August 1 to return to Japan for the first time after the outbreak of COVID,” Ida says. “Finally, I can see her.”