Kurokami E{m}Urge

28 3Arts supporters
$5,017 raised of $5,000 goal
0 Days 0:00:00 LEFT
Funded on August 29, 2021
    • 100% contributed

With this campaign, I am seeking to adapt one of my latest dance performances into an experimental film that incorporates virtual reality technology and other contemporary interventions in traditional Japanese classical dance. This project, “Kurokami E{m}Urge,” is part of a larger series that revolves around a classical dance piece called “Kurokami,” meaning “black hair.” That traditional piece focuses on the character’s anguish, but as a result, the resilient strength of women is highlighted. Prior to the pandemic, I was working to create a new, live interpretation of this classical work. Shortly before we were ready to debut, we had to adapt to a livestreamed dance performance. While making that adaptation, I became interested in the opportunity that a more ambitious filming and virtual reality (VR) technology may bring to the piece. As a contemporary performer trained in a centuries-old art form, I have a continuing goal to expand the legacy of Japanese works and dance forms by practicing with new performance techniques and modern ideas of identity. For this vision, we have assembled the talents of numerous collaborating artists who span the globe from Mumbai to Kyoto to Chicago. Together, with your help, we will explore this living traditional art form and bring it into the 21st century context to address contemporary ideas of power, the representation of women, and the perception of self.

About This Project

As a classical piece, “Kurokami” has been performed using Jiuta and Nagauta styles of music, focusing on the woman as the main character. The character has been portrayed in different iconic woman roles of the Edo period, such as a high-level courtesan, a princess, or a geisha. My process involves reshaping and reformulating a traditional idea or concept by transforming each facet of the original work. The three components I typically focus on are the music, the stage, and the performer. The iterations draw upon contemporary applications of music (e.g. electric shamisen, Gidayu shamisen), changes to the stage (a physical theater, a virtual theater, a digital film theater), and portrayals of different elements of a character (different gender, different mentality).

In Japanese culture, black hair is symbolic of a woman’s beauty, sensuality, strength, as well as youth. The song “Kurokami” became famous for being used in the Kabuki play "Oakinai Hirugakojima" that premiered at Nakamura-za in 1784, and was transferred to the Jiuta style of playing, and eventually to the present-day Nagauta song used in Japanese classical dance.

The story follows a samurai’s struggles to revive the Genji clan. The warrior, Minamoto no Yoritomo, falls in love with Tatsuhime, the princess daughter of Sukechika Ito. However, the power of the Kanto samurai is needed to revive the Genji clan. Realizing Yoritomo's feelings of seeking the revival of the clan, Tatsuhime crushes her own feelings and advises Yoritomo to marry another woman, Princess Masako. On the night of Yoritomo and Masako's “first pillow,” Tatsuhime suffers from jealousy and anguish while combing her hair alone. The song "Kurokami" was woven into this now-famous scene, and Tatsuhime’s act of hidden sacrifice and lonely despair over her lost love has been handed down to the present day as a progenitor of enka songs as well as being performed in Japanese classical dance.

With “Kurokami E{m}Urge,” I am embarking on my most adventurous intervention by incorporating a virtual reality form of the piece. The increasing popularity of virtual gaming platforms and systems has accelerated the capacity to allow audiences to access a completely new type of venue and experience. It is “theater with an audience of one.”  This intimacy is an intriguing and stimulating prospect. This iteration, along with the contemporary music and other creative staging, will provoke thought and discovery into ideas of identity, women’s representation, freedom, will, and stretching our capacity for empathy, one person at a time.

Thank you for your support in helping us bring this project to life!

Thank yous

Contribute any amount or choose from the levels below.

  • $20
    Personal thank you on social media ($20.00 is tax deductible.)
  • $35
    Above, plus your name acknowledged in the virtual program ($35.00 is tax deductible.)
  • $50
    All of the above, plus a signed card/poster ($45.00 is tax deductible.)
  • $75
    All of the above, plus a signed, original concept sketch drawn by Yoshinojo Fujima ($60.00 is tax deductible.)
  • $125
    All of the above, plus a link to special zoom chat session with Yoshinojo Fujima and Director Maskara ($110.00 is tax deductible.)
  • $250
    All of the above, plus a private lesson in Japanese classical dance by Yoshinojo Fujima ($175.00 is tax deductible.)
  • $300
    All of the above, plus a private Kabuki makeup session with traditional face imprint as a momento ($175.00 is tax deductible.)

Rika Lin (aka Yoshinojo Fujima)

Reva and David Logan Foundation Award

Rika Lin (aka Yoshinojo Fujima) (she/her) is a shin-nisei, a part of postwar Japanese American diaspora, and an interdisciplinary performing artist, dancemaker, and Grandmaster in Fujima style Japanese classical dance. An active member of Asian Improv aRts Midwest, she is …

View Rika Lin (aka Yoshinojo Fujima)'s profile
  • Update 1: First Steps
    Posted on July 02, 2021
     Calligrapher writes on a hexagonal paper cage as a shadow  of a dancer is within.

    Image from the CAAJF streamed performance.  

    Kurokami First Steps

    Excitement for the first steps of the Kurokami E{m}Urge 3AP campaign!  

    The original idea for the Experimental film project began in early Spring last year (2020). I wanted to combine the fluidity of Japanese Calligraphy (Shodo) with the Japanese Classical Dance piece "Kurokami". And it was not intended to be presented in a digital form at all. 

    This first nascent form was directly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Ideas of nature (the hexagon), the corona radical (single kanji characters as well as the lyrics to the song "Kurokami"), and the dancer, trapped within, seen only as a shadow. 

    Update 2: Closing in on the 3Arts Match!
    Posted on July 15, 2021
     Screenshot of Zoom meeting showing members and gray image of hexagon 'cage'

    Screenshot of Zoom meeting showing members and gray image of hexagon 'cage'  

    Kurokami into VR

    We are two weeks into the campaign, and closing in on the 1/3 match! 

    Thank you to all of the supporters so far, including the anonymous supporters!

    This era of zoom meetings probably enhanced the ability to share progress within the VR project.  Of course,  many discussions/meetings were needed to first convey the vision.  And slowly, it began to take shape. It is such an interesting process! 

    Update 3: SO CLOSE to 1/3 MATCH!
    Posted on July 22, 2021


    Gratitude towards the supporters, the energy coming from you helps tremendously.

    We are just finishing the 3rd week of the campaign and we are SO VERY CLOSE to the 1/3 Match point!


    Creating the piece, one could almost split it into thirds as well. 1/3 Concept, 1/3 Virtual Reality, and 1/3 IRL (In Real Life), 

    Present through it all, my teacher, Shunojo Fujima, has been a source of knowledge, encouragement, and discipline.

    An unwilling divining rod for all (my) things experimental, his is invisibly woven into the piece as the sweat is part of the kimono fabric.

    Thank you Sensei!

    Update 4: YOU made the MATCH!!
    Posted on July 27, 2021


    Posted on July 26, 2021

    We feel very excited to have achieved the 3Arts Match! 

    ALL Thanks to YOU!  We now have one more month to attain the the remaining 1/3 of the $5K Goal!!

    The sleeves are rolled up! 

    We had help from DARUMA production house in Kyoto Japan to capture the aura of Mr. Matsuya Nozawa.

    Thank you! 

    Update 5: #ChooseYourReality
    Posted on August 11, 2021
     Calligrapher writes on a hexagonal paper cage as a shadow  of a dancer is within.

    Calligrapher writes on a hexagonal paper cage as a shadow of a dancer is within. Text reading "#ChooseYourReality" across bottom of image.  

    Kurokami E{m}Urge #ChooseYourReality preview

    We are creeping closer and closer to the goal! 

    Kurokami E{m}Urge #ChooseYourReality is one of the conceptual puzzle pieces which lends itself to the experimental film.  If you are able please watch the sneak preview of Kurokami E{m}Urge #ChooseYourReality the iterations lend themselves to each other. 

     It will be presented online, alongside two other projects: "Moods of Nāyikā (3 episodes)" by Ashwaty Chennat in collaboration with Abhijeet Rane, A Queer Pride, and Transit Productions and "Afterimage" by Zachary Nicol. (all made possible by the Chicago Dancemakers Forum Digital Dance Grant) (Thank you CDF!)

    The stream will start at 6pm (CST) until 7pm.




    Update 6: #ChooseYourReality Preview
    Posted on August 15, 2021

    Ashwaty Chennat, by Alvin Cobb, Jr. | Kurokami: E {m} urge, by Al Brandtner, Brandtner Design | Zachary Nicol  

    [ID: A triptych including two black and white headshots and a golden graphic showing calligraphy and the shadow of a dancer in a kimono]

    Thanks to everyone's support, we are VERY CLOSE to reaching the goal of $5,000!
    If you missed the the premier showcase stream( called "Narratives/Visibilities" last week, you can check it out here: https://vimeo.com/585553249 it will be available until August 26. It will give you a glimpse of the project as we near it's completion in the virtual realm, and then begin towards the experimenatal film.
    2021 Kurokami E{m}Urge #ChooseYourReality will be along side two other great projects "Moods of Nayika," by Ashwaty Chennat in collaboration with Abhijeet Rane; and “Afterimage” by Zachary Nicol
    May be an image of 2 people and text
    Update 7: Nearing the finish line!
    Posted on August 19, 2021
     Screenshot of the "Annex" in the VR incarnation of the Kurokami Concept

    Screen shot courtesy of Aritst  

    VR controller and the 'Start' button for the VR version of KurokamiE{m}Urge

    Just under 10 days left, and a little bit more to reach the goal.

    This Kurokami Concept has been fortunate to have been realized as several iterations, each form shaping and influencing the others; and the project continues to develop.

    What are the focal points when creating a dance piece? a performance? an experience?  Do these things/Should these things change when presented live vs film vs VR ?

    You are helping answer this question.  Thank you! 


    Update 8: Thanks for the Support, Now the work Continues...!
    Posted on September 13, 2021
     Image of Shamisen player embedded in shoji screens in a bamboo forest  with a VR control panel visible

    Embedded image of a Shamisen player in a bamboo forest with a VR control panel visible  

    Embedded image of a Shamisen player in a bamboo forest with a VR control panel visible

    We made the goal with a little bit to spare, and it was with everyone's energies.

    Whether it was in time, spirit, or donations, everything is most gratefully appreciated. 

    I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to inquire, examine, challenge, and re-examine these precepts, ideas, and thoughts that shape our culture, society, and tradition.

    Please stay tuned as we continue on this journey.

    Thank you very much,

    Yoshinojo Fujima

    • Thank you to the following for contributing to 3Arts with the recommendation that we support this project.

    • Edward Wilkerson

    • Curtis Ikeuchi

    • Anonymous Supporter

    • Missi Davis

    • Anonymous Supporter

    • Anonymous Supporter

    • Yukio Nang

    • Keiko M. Lin

    • Tohru Oyasu

    • Anonymous Supporter

    • Rami Atassi

    • Rami Atassi

    • Cheryl Yuen

    • David Wang

    • Millicent Drower

    • kayoko kawaguchi

    • Mark Kasperowicz

    • Mitsu Salmon

    • Anonymous Supporter

    • Anonymous Supporter

    • Kiku Taura

    • kiku hibino

    • Chisako Takayama

    • Ryoichi Oyasu

    • Kinnari Vora

    • Millicent Drower

    • Rose Parisi

    • Sandra Inouye

make it work


3AP Presenting Partner:

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 Additional support provided by: 

Department of Cultural Affairs logo  Illinois Arts Council