Zai 在

Producer, Host, Musician

Inspired by the practice of sound healing, this improvised performance was a theatrical experiment exploring the seven chakras through music, dance, color and visuals. A multi sensory appeal to the emotions, an active meditation and performance. In 2015 I was approached by Nahoko Sugiyama with this concept for a show and we collaborated on the creative development and production until the debut at University Settlement in 2016.


The Process

After an initial ramp-up period that involved researching the heck out of sound healing systems like Tama do we began discussing formats for the performance. Ultimately the show didn't adhere to any one practice of sound healing but sought to relate some of the core principals across systems though, for us, mood and feel took precedence over rules like amplification shouldn't be used. We were making a theatrical performance, not a healing session, so entertainment was a factor.

The plan was to loosely choreograph a series of seven pieces, each corresponding to the characteristics and progression of the chakras. After one rehearsal we quickly realized the logistical challenge of arranging rehearsals with zero budget. We needed another plan.

Using the Shuffle Challenge as a precedent we decided to use a structured improvisation format that would require no rehearsals and developed a spreadsheet indicating dynamics, story, musical key and more. On the day of the show we walked through this document with the dancers and musicians and then performed. I 'conducted' the band, providing some dynamics cues as the show progressed and kept an eye on the clock so any given piece wasn't too long or short. Considering we didn't do any rehearsals with the final format, it worked beautifully.

A portion of the spreadsheet we created to manage the show dynamics.

The Performers

Through various projects I've been fortunate to collaborate with some incredible dancers and musicians. For Zai we assembled an all-star cast including Da Wei Hou, Chihiro "Cutebeat" Kobayashi, Pete List (beatbox and shahi baja), Carmine Guida (oud), Rob Mastrianni (guitars), Naoe Moriya Amano (glass bowls), and Harry Einhorn (vocals). Nahoko danced in multiple pieces and I did double-duty, hosting and playing percussion/electronics. Live, improvised, video projection was created by Udit Mahajan.