The world of performing arts for people with intellectual disabilities
Tomoko Utsumi (NPO Dream Energy Project Chairman)
■Don't give in to the coronavirus! Online concert held
The "Wonderful Encounter Concert" was scheduled to be held on March 21, 2020, "World Down Syndrome Day."
A collaborative concert of piano, solo, and harp performances by people with Down syndrome, as well as plays and songs by people with intellectual disabilities, was scheduled to be performed, but this was postponed to May due to the spread of the new coronavirus infection. . That didn't work out, and although there was a plan to hold the concert after the fall, they decided to hold it as an online concert.
As an IT enthusiast myself, this was quite a bold challenge.
At the NPO Dream Energy Project (commonly known as DoriPro), which I am the representative of, we create a place for learning and experience for people with intellectual disabilities, and we support ``work experience.'' Additionally, as one of the pillars of our activities, we have held plays and concerts for people with intellectual disabilities, but this is the first time we have held an online concert. I had no idea what to do.
I thought about using a paid music distribution site, but it requires an ID and password, and if you're new to IT like me, you might give up! That's how I felt, so I quit.
I thought about "publishing" it on YouTube, but I ran into a problem.
That is the fear of being the target of slander on the internet.
It would be pointless if an anonymous and irresponsible comment made them lose their desire to express themselves in response to their hard work. Because of these concerns, we decided to provide a free limited distribution during October by sending the viewing URL only to those who requested to watch it.
“Wonderful Encounter Online Concert” program
Part 1: Piano performance by a person with Down syndrome, solo singing, and harp performance by a guest
Part 2 Message to those who watched the online concert by 11 members with intellectual disabilities
The venue was a French restaurant in Fujisawa City that also served as a salon concert venue. Originally, the concert was scheduled to include tea and cake, but unfortunately there was no audience.
In the second half of the concert, the DoriPro members shared their special skills and messages one by one. Members who were unable to come to the venue due to concerns about coronavirus infection were asked to send in recordings of their dances, poetry readings, etc. from home, and we edited them.
Impressions from those who watched it. (Excerpt)
●The dignified appearance of everyone during the presentation was impressive. I felt a clear desire to be seen and communicated. This also led to me speaking clearly so that my feelings could be conveyed to the other person. I felt the importance of having the desire to convey the message.
●The individuality of each person was on display and I enjoyed it. The harp was also nice. I think it's very important to express yourself and to have a place to express yourself. Although it is difficult to hold events and presentations at the moment, I would like to express my respect for the efforts of everyone who devised methods to hold the event.
Currently, this concert can be viewed by visiting the DoriPro homepage .
■Performing arts for people with intellectual disabilities
Performing arts such as theater, music, and dance are also called ``performing arts.'' When it comes to performing arts for people with physical disabilities, many people were probably moved by the prosthetic-legged dancers who appeared at the closing ceremony of the Rio Paralympic Games.
However, I don't think much is known about the performing arts for people with intellectual disabilities.
Paintings, sculptures, and other art created by people with intellectual disabilities are known for their unique flavor and splendor.
Many of you may be familiar with the calligrapher Shoko Kanazawa, who has Down syndrome and wrote the opening title for the historical drama ``Taira no Kiyomori.''
In fact, there are many organizations, including DoriPro, where people with intellectual disabilities are involved in theater, music, and dance.
There are some groups that are doing great work that have been featured in the media and won awards overseas, and it may be presumptuous of me to say this, but I would like to say this because I want people to know more about their unique performances.
It's a waste not to know!
I would like to introduce some of our activities at DoriPro, as well as information on organizations related to Kanagawa and overseas that are involved in the performing arts.
■DoriPro plays and concerts
Since 2012, DoriPro has been holding "inclusion live shows" between professional musicians and people with intellectual disabilities at a live house in Tokyo. In 2016, 2017, and 2019, we held a music and theater stage performance called ``21st Wonderful Encounter,'' and in 2018 we held a music event called ``Wonderful Encounter Concert'' at Yotsuya Civic Hall.
This photo is a scene from the play "The 21st Wonderful Encounter," which was held at the Prefectural Leprosy Hall in August 2019 as part of Kanagawa Prefecture's "Coexistence and Co-Creation Project." Most of the performers are young people with intellectual disabilities such as Down syndrome or autism.
People with Down syndrome have low voices and a slurred tongue, making it difficult to understand what they say.
In 2015, when I first started writing the script because I wanted to do a play, I thought it might be difficult for the characters to actually say the lines, so at the planning stage I decided to create a ``narration drama'' in which the characters used gestures, gestures, and facial expressions to match the narration. ” I was thinking. However, as they practiced more and more, they began to feel itchy to say their lines, and began speaking without the narration. The children who couldn't look up at first turned their heads forward, and the children who were mumbling and couldn't understand what they were saying were now able to hear their lines, and before I knew it, each child was on stage speaking their lines with full energy and performing. was doing.
They are intellectually handicapped.
The severity varies from person to person, such as a lack of understanding, difficulty concentrating, and difficulty controlling emotions.
A lot of things happen during practice and during the actual performance.
It is common for students to "clump up" (no movement, no words, no reaction) and get lost in their own world during practice.
I barricaded myself in the bathroom and didn't come out, I changed my lines to make them easier to say, and I lost control of my emotions and hid under the desk in the venue office before rehearsals started.
On the morning of the performance, he gets separated from his mother and gets lost in the street, and even during the performance he runs to the bathroom and is late for his turn.
There are many things like this and that, but in any case, I demonstrate incredible strength in what I love.
I'm unconditionally honest when it comes to having fun.
I love to express myself, and I enjoy expressing myself, so I work hard.
When we talk about intellectual disabilities, we tend to think of them as people who can't do a lot of things or don't really understand things, but there are times when a person's little words, gestures, or actions make me laugh, or on the contrary, I think, ``Wow!''
There's not much difference between them and us, and it makes me think, "What is a disability?"
Actor Takako Tokiwa feels for these people and is volunteering to participate.
Many people fill out detailed questionnaires at the end of each performance.
Excerpt from the survey conducted during the 2019 performance.
●I was very moved to see everyone working so hard to do what they love. I often stop because I'm too concerned about what other people think, so I was impressed that they were really enjoying themselves while performing.
●It was a play filled with the happiness of being born. I'm sure you've been through a lot of hard times and hardships, but I hope you continue to have a kind heart that is considerate and loving towards others. I also learned a lot.
● Content that makes you think about the meaning of being born. And it's wonderful to see the individuality of each cast member while acting well.
Also, regarding the concert, the online concert I wrote about at the beginning will be the second time, but the first "Wonderful Encounter Concert" held in 2018 was a collaboration between performers with Down syndrome and performers with autism. The main concert was a co-starring performance.
It was very interesting to see how each person's different disabilities created uniqueness in their music.
The performers with Down syndrome had a kind and warm side, and that came through in their performances. On top of that, each performer approaches the performance with the difficulties that arise from their own disabilities.
Rintaro has a pacemaker in his heart (TOSHIKI), is unable to hear in his left ear (Hayago), and was born missing the tip of his right wrist, so he has five fingers on his left hand and six fingers on his right wrist. ” to play the melody.
Piano performance Rintaro Suzuki
On the other hand, all performers with autism were hyperactive, restless, and picky when they were young, and it was said that they had difficulty remembering the rules of daily life.
However, his mother realized that he was quiet only when he was listening to music, and with the creation of an environment, his talent blossomed. He has an outstanding ability to concentrate on the music he loves, and his performances and songs are overflowing with passion and dynamic.
For example, playing the piano. While the piano playing by Mayu and Rintaro, who have Down syndrome, is gentle and full of emotion, the piano playing by Takuto, who has autism, is as if his fingers are dancing happily across the keys. It had a sense of rhythm, was dynamic, and felt like a duet that resonated deep within my heart.
Piano performance Takuto Koyanagi
Solo singer Tae Kamiya
The concert received a lot of feedback.
Loud applause, people crying, and lots of questionnaires saying they were ``moved.''
However, because of their intellectual handicap, their rhythm and tempo may be less stable than other people.
I can't even say that it's flattering to say that someone like Hayabusa is ``good.'' I can't help but hear the sound.
So what did the customers applaud for?
Someone once said to me, ``Because I don't have the desire to make it look good, I think it just resonates directly with my heart.''
It's true that people find it difficult to express themselves through words, so they put their true selves into songs and songs.
It may take an immeasurable amount of time to master a single song, and he may not be good at perfecting accuracy, but he has a passionate passion that surpasses all of that.
He has the honesty to bring out his true, unadulterated self to the best of his ability.
There is an overflowing dedication.
I think that will move the hearts of the listeners.
Strength in weakness...
We tend to simply say, ``Turn a negative into a positive'', but the efforts we have made despite various difficulties and the journey we have taken without giving up are reflected in our performances such as playing and singing. . I think the same can be said for theater and dance.
I think this is one of the appeals of the performing arts for people with intellectual disabilities.
Singer Keiko Mizukoshi, who came to see the event, wrote this on her blog:
``Piano performance, violin, trumpet, flute, and solo singing. Each person's performance and song reached the depths of my heart, and I started crying. Each person, as an expressor, was expressing their feelings to us with their naked hearts. (Omitted) As a mother, as a musician, and as a person, I also feel a lot of things, and I feel that everything is important. I was able to feel the origin of this, and I had a valuable time with him.”
■An organization working on performing arts related to Kanagawa
Love Junks is an entertainment school for people with Down syndrome.
There are schools in Kanto, Kansai, and Hokkaido, with a total of 800 students.
``I feel that people with Down syndrome are excellent at expressing their feelings directly,'' says Anna Makino, who is the director of the organization. After teaching some children how to dance, he was fascinated by their ability to attract others and their high sensitivity, which led him to create Lovejansk.
When my child was born 26 years ago, people with Down syndrome were rarely seen on TV. LoveJunks' activities, which have appeared on TV and at various events around the world, have not only been an encouragement to parents raising children with Down syndrome, but have also become a huge presence in letting people who don't know about Down syndrome know about its energetic hidden power. became. Anna, who teaches and choreographs for professional dancers, speaks powerfully about the appeal of dance for children with Down syndrome.
“The way they enjoy dancing to the fullest touches people's hearts and reminds them of their origins.”
Hot Generation performs original musical works three times a year with professional musical actors regardless of their disability.
The organizer, Meiko Torii, says of the intellectually handicapped members, ``Performances full of tenderness and beauty, created by pure and innocent souls, provide the ultimate healing and courage.''
The singing voice of Tae Kamiya (front row of the stage), who has autism and plays the lead role in many of the productions, has a sound that sounds like it has descended from heaven.
Mr. Torii, who has been coaching Tae since he was a high school student, says:
``There are times when I am not able to approach training with a stable emotional state, but it is important to believe in the potential of the other person.''
Because of her invisible hardships, Tae shines on stage with a dignified appearance that does not give the impression that she has a disability.
I have a connection with Hot Generation, and about 20 years ago, I asked Mr. Torii to open a branch in Kanagawa, so I started the Kanagawa school, and together with my fellow families of children with disabilities, I have created a school where children are smiling and smiling. I worked hard to create a place where I could be.
Although I graduated seven years ago to establish DoriPro, I believe that the work of inclusion itself, which goes beyond people with and without disabilities, is of great significance.
[Salsa gum tape]
``Salsa Gum Tape'' is a rock band formed by musician Tetsu Kashiwa and other people with intellectual disabilities.
It has been 26 years since we started working at welfare facilities in the prefecture.
The energy with which people with intellectual disabilities sing, play, and have fun as entertainers is amazing.
In the ``Wonderful World'' that Kashiwa created in response to the ``Tsukui Yamayuri Garden'' incident, anger and hope are swirling and exploding.
Members of DoriPro were also invited to Salsa Gum Tape's live performance in January this year, and they sang this song together. The stage and venue became one, and a loud chorus formed.
"I was born to be happy! I love being alive!"
The sight of a member with an intellectual disability crying out from the bottom of his heart must have been firmly engraved in the hearts of everyone at the venue.
All live performances have been canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, we performed live for the first time in a while at an online event without an audience in November.
Kashiwa also announced his new song "Aitai!" in hopes of connecting the hearts of those who cannot meet due to the coronavirus pandemic. ” was also created.
"We rock and roll every day because it's just fun. It's even more fun when we can share that fun with others. It's the most peaceful sharing in the world!!"
In fact, just as Shiwa-san's message is, the rock'n'roll spirit of surviving no matter the situation is alive and well.
All of them are putting on performances that have the power to break through the sense of stagnation in society, but of course there are many other places that are also active with their own beliefs.
Finally, some information about overseas.
Although it is a little different from the field of performing arts, many people with Down syndrome have been active overseas, appearing on TV and in movies for more than 20 years.
In 1996, Pascal Duquesne, an actor with Down syndrome, was cast as one of the leads in the film The Eighth Day, and achieved the remarkable feat of winning the Best Actor Award at the Cannes Film Festival.
It was released in Japan in 1997, and watching this movie gave me the courage to raise my own child with Down syndrome.
Lauren Potter, who has Down syndrome, plays the role of Becky on the US drama ``Glee.'' Some of you may know it because it was broadcast on NHK E-Tele in 2012, but it's a youth drama with songs and dance set in a rural high school about a bunch of failed high school students. Becky is a member of the cheerleading team. Appearance. Her peers and teachers accept her as normal even though she has Down syndrome. I was as surprised and admired the American culture where people naturally interact with each other as peers and fellow students, without treating them any differently, just as I admired her as an actor who can perform as well as any other actor. .
The movie "Chocolate Donut" is currently attracting attention. Isaac Leyva, who plays the role of Marco, is also an actor with Down syndrome in this 2014 film that made Rudy and Paul cry as they fight against society's prejudices and try to live their own lives.
In December 2020, ``Chocolate Donut'' will be performed in Japan as a play directed by Amon Miyamoto and starring Noriyuki Higashiyama. There, an actual boy with Down syndrome plays the role of Marco.
The reason why many people with intellectual disabilities appear on TV and movies overseas is probably due to the fact that there are theater training schools and productions available. There is an entertainment production company in Los Angeles for people with intellectual disabilities, and I once visited it. Many people with intellectual disabilities have gone on to appear on TV and in movies. In the 300th anniversary program of ``ER,'' which was a popular medical drama in Japan, an actor with Down syndrome appeared in the important role of Peter Fonda's son.
Furthermore, women with Down syndrome are active as models overseas.
In June 2020, GUCCI, a luxury brand that leads the world's fashion world, selected British model Ellie Goldstein for an advertisement for the Italian version of VOGUE.
In October, the global skin care brand ``Obagi'' announced that it would use Grace Strobel as a model.
Over the past few years, many women with Down syndrome have appeared on big stages as models. This means that the world is moving toward ``beauty that emphasizes diversity and is unique to each person.''
In Japan, former Paris Fashion Week model Mariko Takagi is working to train people with intellectual disabilities to become models. The day may not be far off when models with Down syndrome will be released from Japan to the rest of the world.
After encountering the movie ``The Eighth Day'', she became interested in Down syndrome and theater, and for over 20 years, she believed in the potential of people with intellectual disabilities in acting, singing, and dancing, and has been involved in activities.
While there may be some presumptuous content as there are other people doing great work, I hope that as many people as possible will be interested in their performances.
In preparation for next year's Olympic and Paralympic Games, and as a legacy, I hope that performing arts for people with disabilities, not just those with intellectual disabilities, will take root in Japan.
"Because I want to see their performance."
“It’s fun to have a unique personality.”
“Because it’s interesting.”
I sincerely hope that the number of ordinary people who want to go to plays, concerts, and live dance performances by people with intellectual disabilities for this reason will increase, and that we will live in a society where the seats are full.