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Jay Hirabayashi, who was born in the United States, did not begin to dance until he was an adult and needed to strengthen one of his knees after an injury resulting from competitive downhill skiing. In 1978, he joined the Paula Ross Dance Company. Later, he was a member of Mountain Dance Theatre and the Karen Jamieson Dance Company.
In 1982, he became a co-founder of the Vancouver-based creative collective EDAM (Experimental Dance and Music) with Peter Bingham, Barbara Bourget, Lola MacLaughlin, Jennifer Mascall, Peter Ryan and musician Ahmed Hassan. He left EDAM four years later when he and his wife, Bourget, established their own company, Kokoro Dance.
Hirabayashi's choreographic style reflects his interdisciplinary dance training, particularly his deep affinity for Japanese butoh dance. Hirabayashi attended his first butoh performance in 1980 and began to study the expressionist form six years later. One of his early works, Rage (1987), featuring fourteen taiko drummers, three dancers, a martial artist and a stilt walker, was a critical success at the 1987 Asia Pacific Festival as well as at that year's Canada Dance Festival. Rage has been revised numerous times and in 1992 was restaged as The Believer. In 1995, he received a grant from the Canada Council for the Arts to travel to Japan to study with Kazou Ohno, one of butoh's earliest practitioners. In addition to this grant, he was also one of the recipients of the Jacqueline Lemieux Award.
As a teacher, Hirabayashi has a created a hybrid style of modern dance and butoh techniques. As an administrator, he has served on the board of The Dance Centre in Vancouver and is the executive director of the Vancouver International Dance Festival, which began in 1998 as the Vancouver Butoh Festival. In addition to educating audiences about the butoh aesthetic, the Festival is an important promoter of local contemporary dance artists as well as presenting contemporary and culturally diverse dance artists from around the world.
Hirabayashi is not only a dancer, choreographer and administrator, however. He is also a dance writer. Several of his dance reviews have been published in Dance Connection magazine and for a number of years Kokoro Dance published Kokoro Moon, a newsletter that included reviews that engendered debate in the Vancouver dance community because of their candid responses to local choreography.
Pepper, Kaija. “Reviews, International.” Dance Magazine (March 2001): 79-81.