2022 was a transformative year of re-emergence for Unit Souzou. After 2 years of pausing and rescheduling due to pandemic-related disruptions, it felt beyond amazing to connect with many of you in-person again.
The first half of 2022 was dedicated to the premiere of Constant State of Otherness. At long last, we debuted our multi-layered theater work weaving taiko, dance, song and personal story to explore the universal experiences of othering and alienation. Our 6-person ensemble, Ian Berve, David Wells, Michelle Fujii, Kristy Oshiro, Toru Watanabe, and Vicky Zhang, alongside our Company Manager, Sarah Ayako, journeyed through so much together, driven by our belief in this project, in each other, and in the stories we wanted to tell together.
Recognizing space and place was fundamental to this work, and we developed unique experiences responsive to each performance location. In Helena, MT at The Myrna Loy, we hosted a ‘reunion’ community meal to reconnect with folks who had shared otherness stories back in 2019. In Portland, OR, we facilitated an AANHPI space to process identity, belonging and safety. At Caldera Arts, the show blossomed into a weekend festival, vibrant with outdoor site-specific performances and hands-on workshops. We also guided the audience on a sacred rhythmic walk through lands burned by wildfire, playing music and dancing for the land and its ancestors.
During the summer, we got out and about. Toru and Michelle performed with taiko mentors, Russel Baba and Jeanne Mercer, in a 3-day improvisational concert in Mt. Shasta, CA. They taught taiko workshops at Connect 2022 in Washington, DC and Toronto Taiko Festival in Canada. Michelle collaborated with Karen Young in Boston, MA for her project, Taiko and the Parks, centering the elders of Boston, the art of taiko, and connection to indigenous landwaters in lesser known green spaces.
This Fall, we finally returned back to school. Toru and Michelle have been teaching taiko residencies full-time in elementary schools throughout the Portland metro region empowering students to feel pride and strength through the power of the drum.
We end this year overflowing with deep gratitude to all you – collaborators, presenters, audience members, and dear friends – who gave your support and helped manifest our work into its many vibrant and diverse forms.
Looking forward to another creative year in 2023!