Dancers in Tokyo with The Plassey in the background. Still from the film.

A unique partnership between Japan and Aras Eanna comes to fruition next week when an exciting dance collaboration called ‘Echoes of Calling – Encounter’ has its online premiere on Friday, April 23, as part of Galway 2020 European Capital of Culture programme.

Acclaimed Japanese dance choreographer Akiko Kitamura has used online workshops and rehearsals to collaborate with three West of Ireland dancers on a short piece inspired by her visit to Inis Oirr, Connemara, and Galway in 2019.

‘Echoes of Calling – Encounter’ is the result of a partnership between Aras Eanna Inis Oirr, Galway 2020 and EU Japan Fest, with dancers from Galway Dance Project, “sean nós” singers from Co Donegal, and one of the most acclaimed contemporary dance choreographers in Japan.

Executive producer Siobhan O’Malley liaised between the partners in Japan and Ireland to bring this exciting dance project to fruition.

It will be presented as a short film, shot between a theatre in Tokyo and the shores of Galway Bay.

Akiko was captivated by Donegal sean-nós singer Doimnic Mac Giolla Bhríde when he performed at Áras Éanna during her stay on the island and this led to the inclusion of Doimnic and Diane Cannon in a stage performance of Echoes of Calling, with Japanese contemporary dancers, in Tokyo in January 2021.

Kitamura was due to return to Inis Oirr to stage the performance  this Spring, but the coronavirus restrictions prevented this. She worked via zoom with Galway Dance Project dancers Magdalena Hylak, Stephanie Dufresne and Mintesot Wolde to create the film.

Filming took place in South Connemara with film maker Laura Sheeran, who worked closely with Kitamura’s film editor in Tokyo.  The resulting short film includes Japanese and Irish contemporary dance, Irish sean-nós singing, and connects the performance in a Tokyo theatre in January with the wild and barren landscape of Connemara and Inis Oírr.

The Artistic Director of Aras Eanna, Dara McGee, is honoured to be a part of this exciting international project and he hopes to continue to develop this working relationship with Japanese colleagues and the Galway Dance Project into the future.

“Under the direction of Akiko, who had been working online with the dancers, we had a schedule for what exactly we needed for the piece, in order to tie in with the work that has been done in Japan. There was a cold breeze, but the dancers were great and we got some beautiful footage which is being edited in Japan,” he said.

McGee said that Kitamura had requested “sean nós” dancers for the Tokyo performance in January and it was a “wonderful coincidence” that she had seen Doimnic perform at Aras Eanna during her short stay on Inis Oirr.

“I really think this is an ongoing project and we are really thinking of extending this project into 2022. We really feel there is something special happening with this collaboration between Ireland and Japan and it would be a shame if we couldn’t develop this further and bring a full production to Ireland, hopefully in 2022,” he added.

The online premiere for ‘Echoes of Calling – Encounter’ will take place on Friday, April 23, from 1pm – 2pm and the film will be available to view online at the Aras Eanna Inis Oirr You Tube channel

The project will be launched at an online event featuring a Q and A with participants in Japan and Ireland at 1pm Irish time on April 23. To view the event, please check out the Aras Eanna Ionad Ealaine page on Facebook:

‘Echoes of Calling – Encounter’ is presented by Áras Éanna, in association with Galway Dance Project and Office ALB Japan.

  • This project is funded under the Galway 2020 Small Towns Big Ideas programme.


Dancer on a Connemara beach. Photo: Laura Sheeran