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“The Dying Swan” “The Dying Swan and Its Cause of Death”

Dance Base Yokohama


The original version of The Dying Swan by Hana Sakai and The Dying Swan and Its Cause of Death by Hana Sakai, Udai Shika (cello), and Toshiki Okada (direction), a work that uses speech and dance to unpack the cause of the swan’s death. The video recordings of the performances are now available for viewing.

Genealogy of Dance” features works of three women dance artists, who have ties to Kanagawa: Yoko Ando, Hana Sakai, and Megumi Nakamura. This program focuses on the history of dance and approaches it from two perspectives – “inheritance” and “reconstruction.” The works were created at Dance Base Yokohama and were premiered at Aichi Prefectural Art Theater in October 2021.

This video features excerpts from two pieces performed by Hana Sakai. The first is The Dying Swan by Fokin, which has been performed by ballet dancers across the globe. The second is The Dying Swan and Its Cause of Death, a new interpretation of the classic by Hana Sakai, a leading ballet dancer in Japan, and Toshiki Okada, a playwright. By looking closely at the cause of the swan’s death, the work deconstructs the genre of ballet and opens up a new dimension in contemporary performing arts.

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1,000yen(tax include) Viewing Period 240hours / 10days
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Dance Theater

Accessibility of this work

  • Audio guide
  • Sign language
  • Barrier-free subtitles
  • Subtitles
  • Multilingual
  • Dubbing
  • Artist’s original barrier-free version
  • Non-verbal

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  • BF subtitles (Japanese)
  • Audio guide (Japanese)
  • Subtitles (English)


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The image of ballerinas in white tutus and headdresses, dancing on pointe with outstretched arms flapping in the air is probably the most common image people have when they think of “ballet.” The inevitability and persuasiveness of Hana Sakai’s dance, one of Japan’s leading prima ballerinas, reach every corner of the audience with its serene beauty. The audience members are immersed in a lingering feeling of satisfaction – a moment of “I saw a ballet!” – as they witness a swan dying a fleeting death. But moments after, she reappears on pointe while humming a melody by Saint-Saëns and talks eloquently about the cause of her own swan’s death in colloquial Japanese.
In this comic rendition, playwright/director Toshiki Okada spins a monologue on behalf of choreographer Fokin, who created The Dying Swan as a drama without words, and dancer Hana Sakai + swan. He brings “environmental destruction,” a very real and timely topic, as an answer to why the swan is dying. Furthermore, he verbally exposes the dedication and struggle of the ballet dancer to control her body and mind in order to become the swan; he analyzes the origins of the art of ballet. This work could be considered a milestone that organically fuses ballet and theater.


Natsume Date Review (December 10th, 2021, [Venue: KAAT Kanagawa Arts Theatre < Large Studio > ])


Message from artist / creator

There were only two things I did in this production danced by Hana Sakai, a solo dance piece that deconstructs The Dying Swan. Both are very simple. One is to decide on the concept of the work.

More specifically, to make my own choice about what caused the swan in The Dying Swan to die. In the original The Dying Swan, the reason for its death is not explicitly stated. I think this gives the work a lingering and open-ended feeling. It seems like it is required to not mention the cause of its death, to evoke the beauty in its last moments. Therefore, in our version, we aimed to clearly determine the cause of death and to ruin any lingering feelings that come from the work. The second thing I did in this piece was to clarify what the quality of this performance depends on. But I didn’t necessarily come up with something particularly innovative. Rather, it is quite straightforward. Hana Sakai’s body and mind are imbued with the system of ballet, as well as with the work The Dying Swan. I simply decided to make work that relied on this, above all else. I have asked Hana to speak the text I have written as her lines. The text is like a drowsy speech. By voicing this text, Hana’s body will be dragged down from the culmination of her ballet body, no matter what. I created this piece because I wanted to see that happen. But why would I want to do that? I feel as though…. if there is something I can do to contextualize dance in our current society, it is by presenting dance that struggles against the “ordeal” of being dragged down from this high point.


Toshiki Okada

Artist Profile

Hana Sakai

Photo by Tomohide Ikeya


Dancer. She studied classical ballet under Toshiaki Hatasa. After joining the Tachibana Ballet School and the Asami Maki Ballet Company, she moved to the New National Theater Ballet since its foundation as the lead dancer in 1997. Since 2013, she star ted working with Yasutake Shimaji on collaborative projects in a performance unit called Altneu. She received the Minister of Education’s Art Encouragement Prize and the Excellent Award of the Tachibana Akiko Award among others. She was awarded the Medal with Purple Ribbon in 2017.

Toshiki Okada

Photo by Kikuko Usuyama


Playwright, novelist, and director of chelfitsch.Originally from Yokohama. His play Five Days in March won the 49th Kishida Drama Award. His 2007 anthology The End of the Special Time We Were Allowed won the 2nd Kenzaburo Oe Award. He won the 72nd Yomiuri Literary Award for Plays and Scenarios for his collection of plays, Unexplored Unfulfilled Ghost and Monster “Zaha” and “Tsuruga.”

Udai Shika


Shika is a folkloric cellist and has been working in a variety of genres including rock, pop, jazz, classical, and improvised music. He is one of the top string arrangers in Japan’s commercial music scene.In 2019, he released The Valley of the Sun, which worked with Bach’s Unaccompanied Cello Suite.


“The Dying Swan”
Originally by Michael Fokine
Adapted by Hana Sakai
Performance: Hana Sakai
Cello: Udai Shika
Music: “The Swan” in The Carnival of the Animals by Saint-Saëns
Premiere: 1907 (Imperial Mariinsky Theatre [Saint Petersburg, Russia]) or 1905 (Noblemen’s Hall)


“The Dying Swan and Its Cause of Death”
Direction / Choreography: Toshiki Okada
Performance: Hana Sakai
Arrangement / Cello: Udai Shika
Music: Arrangement of “The Swan” in The Carnival of the Animals by Saint-Saëns


Premiere: October 2021 (Aichi Prefectural Art Theater) *As part of “Genealogy of Dance”
Producer: Eri Karatsu (Aichi Prefectural Art Theater / Dance Base Yokohama)
Production Manager: Yoshinori Sekoguchi (Aichi Prefectural Art Theater)
Stage Manager: Aiko Oguro
Lighting Design: Masakazu Ito (RYU)
Sound Design: Norimasa Ushikawa
Costume:Kazuki Sugai
Administrator: Maki Miyakubo (Dance New Air), Nozomi Tanaka (Dance Base Yokohama)


Graphic Designer: SPREAD
Photography: Naoshi Hatori
Videography:Ryosuke Sato


“Performing Arts Selection 2021”
Venue: KAAT Kanagawa Arts Theatre Large Studio December 11, 2021


Planned by Japan Council of Performers Rights & Performing Arts Organizations, Aichi Prefectural Art Theater and Dance Base Yokohama
Organized by Dance Base Yokohama
Co-produced by Dance Base Yokohama and Aichi Prefectural Art Theater Supported by precog co.,LTD., Agency for Cultural Affairs Art Caravan Project with large-scale, high-quality cultural and artistic activities at its core “JAPAN LIVE YELL project”

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