ABOUT UNIT SOUZOU
‘Souzou’ can be written in three ways meaning ‘creation’ (創造), ‘imagination’ (想像), or ‘noisy’ (騒々), alluding to a force by which new ideas are born and take shape in the world. Inspired by these words, the mission of Unit Souzou is to build creative, imaginative works while honoring the history and roots of the taiko art form. The core of Unit Souzou’s artistic voice is personal and authentic, sound shaped and inspired by form and by movement. The essence of Unit Souzou is an expressive blend of taiko and Japanese folk dance, forging new traditions for evolving communities. In addition to creating groundbreaking professional theatrical works, Unit Souzou is deeply committed to share taiko through community performances and collaborations, public classes for adults and youth, and school-based education programs.
Unit Souzou was founded in 2014 by Co-directors Michelle Fujii and Toru Watanabe, relentless innovators at the forefront of a growing artistic movement within the taiko community. Fujii and Watanabe met at Warabi-za, Japan’s foremost traditional folk dance troupe based in Akita, Northern Japan. They have been guest artists and collaborators with many North American and international taiko groups.
Unit Souzou has received support from Regional Arts & Culture Council and the National Performance Network (NPN) Creation and Development Fund, and was a featured showcase performer at NPN’s 2015 Annual Meeting. Unit Souzou has toured throughout the United States including Oregon, Washington, California, Montana, Wyoming, Minnesota and Washington DC, performing professional theatrical work and teaching taiko workshops. They were founding teaching artists with the Right Brain Initiative and are on the teaching artist roster with Young Audiences of Oregon & SW Washington.
ABOUT KOREKARA TAIKO
ABOUT MICHELLE FUJII
Michelle Fujii, taiko artist and Co-director of Unit Souzou, creates contemporary work through the art forms of taiko and Japanese folk dance, placing cultural art within the present. After graduating with a degree in ethnomusicology from UCLA, she was awarded a Bunkacho fellowship from the Japanese government to study with Japan’s foremost traditional folk dance troupe, Warabi-za. Michelle has been a guest artist and collaborator with numerous North American and international taiko groups, including San Jose Taiko, On Ensemble, Portland Taiko, TaikoArts Midwest and Kagemusha Taiko in the UK. In Portland, she serves on the resource council for New Expressive Works and is an active teaching artist with The Right Brain Initiative and Young Audiences of Oregon & SW Washington. Michelle is a fellow at the Asian Pacific American Women’s Leadership Institute (APAWLI) through the Center for Asian Pacific American Women.
ABOUT TORU WATANABE
Toru Watanabe is a taiko artist, performer and Co-Director of Unit Souzou. A consummate performer in acting, dancing, singing and drumming, Toru has expertise in the art forms of Japanese folk dance and taiko. He was a professional member of Warabi-za, one of Japan’s most respected, renowned folk dance theatrical companies, based in the northern prefecture of Akita, Japan. As a company member, he appeared in original musical productions, touring throughout Japan. He also began his journey as an educator, teaching through Warabi-za’s in-house residency program for youth. Toru originally got his start performing and choreographing in college for the Yosakoi Team, Soran Heart in Hokkaido Japan. Prior to founding Unit Souzou, Toru performed with a number of North American taiko groups including On Ensemble, Portland Taiko, Shasta Taiko, and Zenshin Daiko. In Portland, Toru is the lead teacher of Korekara Taiko’s adult classes and is an active teaching artist with The Right Brain Initiative and Young Audiences of Oregon & SW Washington.