Japanese troupe, Enra, ties choreography to animation

Patrick Dunn
Special to The Detroit News
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Members of the Japanese dance troupe Enra seem almost superhuman onstage, appearing to produce constellations in the palms of their hands, jump incredible distances and emanate geometric shapes from their bodies.

On video, these astonishing feats look like special effects inserted after the fact. But they’re all projected live onstage, with dancers performing in meticulous synchronization with a digital animated background. Although Enra’s performances were previously accessible only online to the U.S. public, the troupe is currently embarking on its first U.S. tour, which includes a stop Saturday in West Bloomfield at the Berman Center for the Performing Arts.

While Enra is most easily described as a dance group, its founder and creative director doesn’t come from a dance background. Nobuyuki Hanabusa studied auto design in college and worked in computer graphics production for more than a decade before founding Enra in 2012. Speaking through a translator via email, Hanabusa says the concept for Enra arose out of a desire to see his work connect with viewers.

“Usually when you create an animation, you deliver it to your client and that is the end,” he says. “If the job is to create an animation for television, you cannot see and experience the response directly from the audience.”

Hanabusa kept that idea of audience response in mind as he auditioned his initial five dancers. (Enra’s lineup has since expanded to six performers.) He creates all the troupe’s original music and animations himself, but works closely with dancers and choreographers as he develops each new piece.

“Because I am not a professional dancer, more than looking at (the dancers’) detailed skills, I focused on if their performances could move the audience’s heart,” he says. “I believe anyone who can execute a performance that moves people’s hearts has high skills.”

Enra dancer Tachun has been with the company since its inception. He says there is considerable physical challenge to the group’s repertoire. On the tour, the troupe will perform all 11 acts it has released online, ranging from a jazzy, high-energy number influenced by America’s Roaring ’20s to a piece in which performers dodge and dance with the projected silhouettes of giant feet.

“The hardest part is the balance between the accuracy of the performance and the expression, emotion, calmness and passion that needs to be revealed,” Tachun says.

Enra has scored some prestigious gigs in its brief three years, including the closing ceremonies of this year’s Cannes film festival and a performance before the International Olympic Committee during Tokyo’s successful bid to host the 2020 Olympics. But for its American tour the troupe is doing only a handful of dates touching on smaller cities like Knoxville, Tennessee, and Birmingham, Alabama.

“We have more opportunities to go to all the big cities, such as New York and L.A., but it will be rare to go to areas like Detroit,” Hanabusa says. “We wanted many people to experience and know our performance.”


8 p.m. Saturday

Berman Center for the

Performing Arts

6600 W. Maple,

West Bloomfield

Tickets $35

(248) 661-1900


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