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Mime artist Yayoi Hirano is always moving forward

I met Yayoi Hirano through a mutual friend three years ago here in Vancouver.  At our first meeting we discovered that we went to the same high school in Japan, and became friends right away.

Yayoi has been a mime artist all her life and has an impressive track record before she came to this country eight years ago. Shortly after she got married and settled here, she was diagnosed with breast cancer.  It slowed down her professional activity for a while.  As soon as she recovered well enough to perform, Yayoi was right back into her creative world.

Yayoi writes her own script, produces, directs, choreographs, acts, dances and sometimes sings.  Although she produced and performed a very wide range of productions before moving to Canada, she now is more into Japanese inspired pieces.  That seems quite appropriate since Yayoi carves Japanese Noh masks herself.  So far she created fifteen masks, each of which represents a different character.  Often she wears these masks to perform.

I have been photographing her and her production ever since I met her, and have perhaps photographed Yayoi more often than anyone else.  Soon after I began photographing her, I came to realize that she was so professional that whenever I pointed my camera at her, she changed into a performer.  In other word, I could not photograph her just as a friend, a woman or a regular person.  It is fascinating to watch her transformation right before my eye.  That was fine on the stage, but I wanted another kind of photograph of her.  After so many failed attempts to photograph her the way I wanted, I decided to take her outside into a different environment, hoping she would be different.  So, this year on a beautiful summer evening in July, we went to Jericho Park.  Near the lake in front of tall grasses I asked her to dance.  She was wearing a white kimono and on top, a translucent cream coloured Noh costume.  Sun was setting behind her.  Yayoi looked like a creature out of this world against dark tall grasses and reflecting water in the lake.

Of many photographs I took on that day, I found this image (the top image) just the way I wanted.  She is glowing with joy of dancing freely in an open space.  That is the essence of Yayoi I finally captured.

For more information: Yayoi Theatre Movement society and Yayoi Hirano

Yukiko Onley is a Vancouver based photographer.

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