Shoko Seki: Deadline

Shoko Seki: Deadline is a part-choreographed, part-improvised solo dance piece that explores the Japanese phenomenon of Karuoshi; Seki stressfully dances through the various stages of what is literally translated to “overwork death.” Her story is one of a doctor who works herself to death. Throughout this piece, Shoko Seki often wears a labcoat and a medical mask as she writhes at her desk between sequences.

Overall, Shoko Seki: Deadline is a grand and terrifying experience.

It cannot be denied that Seki is a wonderful dancer, moving gracefully between jarring and fluid movement, telling her devastating tale. However, what is missing in this piece is narrative shifting.

She dances in and out of sharp red pools of light, her eyes rolling into the back of her head. She is justifiably intense in her glances towards the audiences. She is about to die after all. This is a stressful piece to sit through, and there is no relief. The red lighting, jarring dancing and aggressive music are intense throughout, making it feel as if there are not many narrative shifts. The audience was tense and devastated throughout, knowing what was to come.

One wonderful moment during the piece is when Shoko Seki gives the audience small, childlike instruments. She then proceeds to move to the rhythms the audience creat. Here, she amplifies not only the pressure others can put on you to work harder and faster, but also, what control the audience has over live theatre. It was a moment that shows us why live theatre is a good medium for discussing Karuoshi.

The last dance sequence was the performances only relief present. Shoko Seki comes back onstage wearing a flowing white dress and is clearly happy. This after death scene, while quite literally interpreted, was soft and beautiful. She is an intensely present artist.

Overall, Shoko Seki: Deadline is a grand and terrifying experience. 

Reviews by Blair Simmons

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The Blurb

This part-choreographed, part-improvised piece explores the Japanese phenomenon of death through overwork: Karuoshi. What brings large swathes of Japanese society to dance on the edge of existence and mortality? Shoko Seki tests the ethical penumbra of long-respected societal truths: self-sufficiency, loyalty and trust. In the world's most connected society, how can an individual fall off the grid? Join this intimate piece that flits between beautiful Japanese tradition, emotive contemporary dance and a sprinkle of improvised musical play!