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Award-winning Japanese Artist Produces Video Featuring Upstate Choreographer

It documents the work of UB dancer-choreographer Melanie Aceto

Release Date: February 10, 2009

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Japanese artist Yuichiro Yamada is producing a documentary video on the work of modern dancer and choreographer Melanie Aceto.

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Japanese artist Yuichiro Yamada, says it took a law degree, a cinema degree, working on a film with his favorite director and months on a Toyota automobile assembly line to inspire him to come back to the U.S. to focus on his preferred medium, documentary video.

Yamada is a candidate for a master's degree in fine arts in the Department of Media Study at the University at Buffalo, where he works under the tutelage of Emmy Award-winning film producer/director and art documentarian Elliot Caplan, UB professor of media studies and director of the Center for the Moving Image.

Yamada is producing a documentary video on the work of modern dancer and choreographer Melanie Aceto, funded by a $10,000 grant from the UB College of Arts and Sciences Robert G. and Carol L. Morris Fund and a $10,000 Scholar Award from the Liberace Foundation.

Aceto, visiting assistant professor in the UB Department of Theatre and Dance, is the founder and director of Melanie Aceto Contemporary Dance, based in upstate New York. Her work explores a range of dance forms, and frequently employs live music as a driving force in the creative process and performance.

Aceto says the piece, a work for nine dancers, has five parts, "Swarm," "Reel," "Drift," "Bloom" and "Churn." The complete piece will be performed live at "Celebration 35," the UB Zodiaque Dance Company's spring concert to be held in the Drama Theatre in the Center for the Arts on the UB North (Amherst) Campus, Feb. 18-21 at 8 p.m. and Feb. 22 at 2 p.m. Admission is $18.50 (general public) and $9.50 (students and seniors). For information, call 645-2787.

Aceto frequently works with live musicians, which in this case is prohibited by stage size and budget. So she will use a recording of a new five-movement work for marimba, piano and cello by Marc Mellits, a young Syracuse composer, performed by the trio Real Quiet.

Yamada, who holds a bachelor's degree in law from Ritsumeikan University in Japan and a bachelor's degree in cinema from Binghamton University, will record the process of Aceto creating the dance, as well as a live performance featuring dancers from the UB Department of Theater and Dance. His final videotape will be completed in the spring.

Yamada says the reason he first acquired a law degree is because he thought that to be a good filmmaker he needed to study not only cinema, but also the broader issues facing society.

"I then was exposed to experimental film at Binghamton, which gave me valuable insight into unconventional means of expression. After completing that degree I had to return to Japan to save money so I could come back to the United States for graduate school," he says.

"For four months in Japan I worked at a Toyota plant assembly line. The experience of working eight hours a day doing the same thing on the same product was stressful, but it also motivated me to continue my education so that I could pursue a career making something completely unique."

While in Japan he also had the opportunity to work on a movie directed by Masayuki Suo, a Japan Academy Prize-winner who happened to have directed Yamada's favorite film, "Shall We Dance?" Because many of that film's crew was on the set, he was able to learn a lot about their experiences and points of view.

In the fall of 2007, Yamada, then enrolled at UB, took Caplan's "Movement Documentation" class. Yamada says, "I was deeply impressed by his unique and interesting approach to the art of filming. It was in his class that I learned how to use the video camera to express a personal point of view and I became interested in shooting the dancer's graceful movements and reinterpreting it through film."

Yamada also is working on three other documentaries, including one about the work in Tanzania by Engineers Without Borders.

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