Radical confrontation of extreme forces in music, dance and light.


Tomoko Mukaiyama, Nicole Beutler, Jean Kalman

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Galina Ustvolskaya’s Piano Sonata No. 6 has been compared to a scream in the universe. Along with the subtle and more filmic Piano Sonata No. 5 this work is the heart of SHIROKURO, literally meaning white-black in Japanese. Pianist Tomoko Mukaiyama and choreo­grapher Nicole Beutler teamed up with set and lighting designer Jean Kalman and dancer Mitchell-lee van Rooij to create a dance concert full of extremes and contrasts. Inspired by Ustvolskaya’s radical compositions, Mukaiyama and Van Rooij test the limits of music and dance. Their encounter creates a new energy which challenges the audience to look back on their own experiences of this life so full of irreconcilable contradictions.



Tomoko Mukaiyama
Nicole Beutler
Nicole Beutler
Tomoko Mukaiyama
Jean Kalman
Tomoko Mukaiyama
Nicole Beutler
Mitchell-lee van Rooij
Galina Oestvolskaja
Tomoko Mukaiyama (gebaseerd op Robert Schumanns Studien für den Pedal-Flügel op. 56. Sechs Stücke in kanonischer Form: II)
light and decor designer
Jean Kalman
Yohji Yamamoto, Karen Bergeon
technical coordination
Paul Schimmel
lighting operator
Grand Theatre Groningen (André Pronk)
research and assitent
Justa ter Haar
Marieke Peters/Tomoko Mukaiyama Foundation
Marten Oosthoek/NB projects
NB projects
Tomoko Mukaiyama Foundation
Dance Triennale Tokyo
Holland Festival
Grand Theatre Groningen
with support of
Artist in Residence programma van Tanzlabor_21/Tanzbasis Frankfurt_Rhein_Main
supported by
Fonds Podiumkunsten
Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds
Japan Foundation
with special thanks to
Janine Dijkmeijer

SHIROKURO is like a myth. The audience is present ata ritual and Mukaiyama is the shaman.

Audience repons at the opening night in Tokyo

background information

The dance concert SHIROKURO – literally meaning white-black in Japanese – is an extraordinary, multidisciplinary collaboration between the Japanese pianist and visual artist  Tomoko Mukaiyama and the German choreographer and theatre maker Nicole Beutler. Jointly they have devised a theatrical form for the Piano Sonata No. 6 (1988), an uncompromising piece of music by the Russian composer Galina Ustvolskaya (1917-2006).

SHIROKURO is a mysterious confrontation between a dancer and a pianist to the pulsating sounds of Piano Sonata No. 6. Dancer Mitchell-lee van Rooij's entire body is responsive, absorbing the sounds and translating the powerful music into firm movements. Mukaiyama's piano play lends these concrete, physical movements an abstract, mystical dimension. Jean Kalman's minimalist light and set design – ranging from ominously dark to blindingly light – adds an extra visual aspect to the sharp dynamics between the two performers on stage. SHIROKURO is an uncompromising performance, in which the various disciplines never merge. On the contrary, they remain as contrasts which in their extreme purity reinforce each other. Hell reinforcing the idea of heaven, darkness reinforcing light and playfulness reinforcing sincere intensity. The dance concert premiered in October last year at the Tokyo Dance Triennale. The Holland Festival will host the Dutch premiere of the piece.

Mukaiyama not only plays using her fingers, but also utilises her fists and her elbows, hammering away at the keys and making the piano scream. In their piece, the creators have contrasted the ominous thunderstorm of Piano Sonata No. 6 with the more subtle sounds of Ustvolskaya's Piano Sonata No. 5 (1986), Robert Schumann's Sechs Studien in kanonischer Form für Orgel oder Pedalklavier, Op. 56 (1845) and fluid dance. Describing the performance, Mukaiyama talks of 'the abyss we'd rather not look down'. Ustvolskaya's ferocious music lends both creators the opportunity to show how they look upon this life full of irreconcilable contradictions. With razor sharp precision in dance and piano play, SHIROKURO creates a new energy, which challenges the audience to look back on their own experiences of these contrasts.

The unconventional Galina Ustvolskaya was a pupil of the great Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich, who praised her extensively for her sincerity in her music. Being shy of the media and of people, Ustvolskaya lived in relative obscurity for much of her career, until Dutch musicologist Elmer Schönberger discovered her work and introduced her to the Netherlands in the late 1980's. Her inimitable compositions are distinguished by the many aggressive repetitions and pounding rhythms, stripped of all frills. In addition, she eagerly makes use of unorthodox instrumentations. Her complex music, constructed with raw dissonance and tone clusters, hit the blue in the music scene. In the well-known title of an essay, Schönberger called her not without reason ‘the woman with the hammer’. Ustvolskaya's music sounds like a force of nature, a scream in the universe, the latter of which is also the title of Josée Voormans 2005 documentary on Ustvolskaya.


Artists Nicole Beutler and Tomoko Mukaiyama have both lived and worked in Amsterdam for years, and are fascinated by each other's work. Beutler's choreographies explore the intersection between dance, performance and visual arts. Her work is characterised by a great sense of musical dynamics, subtle humour, astrong aesthetics and layered content. She often collaborates with composer and dj Gary Shepherd and various artists, including puppet theatre maker Ulrike Quade and light designer Minna Tiikkainen. Tomoko Mukaiyama is also known as a composer, musician and artist who spreads out well beyond the boundaries of her own art form. Thirteen years ago, already famed as a pianist, she decided to add visual art and a strong representation of performance elements to her musical performance. She worked with performance artist Marina Abramović, choreograper Jiří Kylián, industrial band MERZBOW and dance troupe Club Guy & Roni, amongst others. SHIROKURO is the first collaboration between Beutler and Mukaiyama.



The Japanese pianist and visual artist Tomoko Mukaiyama was born in Wakayama. She studied piano at the Musashino College of Music, the University of Indiana and the Sweelinck Conservatory in Amsterdam. In 1991 she won the International Gaudeamus Interpreters Competition in Rotterdam, playing Conlon Nancarrow's Sonatina. She has performed with various renowned ensembles, including the Ensemble Modern in Frankfurt, the London Sinfonietta, the Ensemble Intercontemporain in Paris and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam. In 1998 she released her cd Hello Pop Tart, with original and distinctive interpretations of works by John Zorn and Frank Zappa. Hello Pop Tart received rave reviews. Since 2000, Mukaiyama has also been making a name for herself as a visual artist, creating various installations for leading festivals such as the Biennale of Sydney, the Yokohama Triennale and the Echigo Tsumari Art Triennial. Her motivation is to add a new dimension to the conventional concert experience. For her performance at the  Amsterdam X Tokyo at Felix Meritis concert hall in Amsterdam, she was surrounded by one thousand plastic bags with gold fish in them. Her project For You (2005) was a public piano recital for one person. Mukaiyama collaborates with various film directors, designers, dancers, choreographers and photographers, varying from Ian Kerkhof, Marina Abramovič,  industrial outfit MERZBOW to Jirí Kylián and dance troupe Club Guy & Roni. In 2010-2011 she was artist in residence at De Doelen in Rotterdam. In 2012 she collaborated with choreographer Nicole Beutler to create the dance concert SHIROKURO, based on music by Galina Ustvolskaya.


The German choreographer and theatre maker Nicole Beutler (1969) was born in Munich. Since 1993, she has lived and worked in Amsterdam. She studied at the art academies of  Münster and Munich, as well as German literature at the University of Münster. Since her graduation from the SNDO (School for New Dance Development; in Dutch: School voor Nieuwe Dans Ontwikkeling) she has been active as a dance artist. Her work explores the intersection between dance, performance and visual arts, and always relates to the world outside. It's characterised by a great sense of musical dynamics, layered content, strong aesthetics and subtle humour. Most often developed in collaboration with composer and dj Gary Shepherd and light designer Minna Tiikkainen, her works tour leading international fesivals, including Tanz im August in Berlin and Festival Otoño in Madrid. Her pieces are regularly selected for the Nederlandse Dansdagen (Dutch Dance Festival), which presents a selection of the best performances from the last season. Recently she has also worked with puppet theatre maker Ulrike Quade, mime outfit Kassys and film makers Helena Muskens & Quirine Racké. In 2005, Beutler helped to set up LISA, a theatre collective in Amsterdam. From 2008 until 2010 she was curator for Dance and Performance at the Theatre Frascati and for the Something Raw festivals. For her piece 1: Songs she received the 2010 VSCD Mime Award. Beutler is a guest lecturer at the SNDO and the Mime School of the Amsterdam School of the Arts. In 2012 Beutler collaborated with Tomoko Mukaiyama to create the radical dance concert SHIROKURO, based on the music of Galina Ustvolskaya.


The French light and set designer Jean Kalman (1945) was born in Paris. Since 1979 he has worked as a (light) designer for dance, theatre and opera in France, Great-Britain, Germany, the Netherlands, the US and Japan. In 1991, Kalman won the prestigious Lawrence Olivier Award for Best Lighting, for his contribution to Richard III and White Chameleon, and in the two following years he was nominated for the award. In 2004 he won the Evening Standard Award for Best Lighting Design for his work on the Broadway production of Festen. At De Nederlandse Opera, Kalman worked with Karel Appel, Georg Baselitz, Jannis Kounellis and Anish Kapoor, as well as with directors Peter Brook, Deborah Warner, Richard Eyre, Robert Carsen, Adrian Noble and Peter Stein. Since the 1980's he has worked extensively with the director Pierre Audi, having stage-lit almost all of his productions, both at De Nederlandse Opera and with other companies. Encouraged by Audi, he has, since 1996, also taken up set design. He has made unique contributions to a wide variety of international theatre productions, ranging from large scale operas such as Parsifal (2012) to the radical dance concert SHIROKURO (2012).

This performance is part of AAA Festival Music and Art/memento mori.
A cooperation initiative by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra.


AAA Festival Muziek en Kunst

This performance was made possible with support by