la mode

Piano, electronics [60′]

The Music of La Mode is conceived in five parts.

  • Nocturnal [10′]
  • Early Memory [12′]
  • Dress Code [15′]
  • Catwalk [20′]
  • ito Rhumba [7′]

Fashion is a modern religion; a fascinating and most valid form of human expression and beauty. But fashion is also a dangerous and vulnerable way of communication, built on stereotype codes and ideas. This was the basis for the original production of La Mode, a performance-installation conceived by Tomoko Mukaiyama with music by Yannis Kyriakides, that opened the iconic National Theatre in Taichung, Taiwan in 2016. At the centre of the performance was the distinctive on-stage presence of Tomoko Mukaiyama at the piano, with a company of 10 dancers from the Italian Spellbound Contemporary Ballet choreographed by Dunja Jocic. The set was designed by architect Toyo Ito together with textile designer Yoko Ando. Swathes of architecturally shaped gauze fabric, in the quintessential forms pioneered by Toyo Ito hung throughout the stage. The audience became a part of the scene as the boundaries between performer and spectator were highlighted and then blurred. The CD of La Mode recorded four years later, in June 2020, in the midst of the first Covid-19 lockdown, marks the first time the music was re-interpreted since the premiere. It was sparked off by a new version of the music, that was made into a live-stream concert in the Muziekgebouw, Amsterdam with the collaboration of cinematographer Reinier van Brummelen. Not to lose the momentum of the situation, the complete music was then recorded a few weeks later in the studio of Chris Maene, on his famous 'straight-strung' piano. The concept of the music of La Mode is built on the juxtaposing of an intimate, almost hermetic musical world against the rhythmic drive and structures of the dance-driven music heard in the fashion industry. The two sides of fashion: the exterior one of glamour, consumerism and desire, and the interior dialogue of insecurity, distorted self-image and social alienation. These two worlds are intertwined throughout the five movements of La Mode. The first, Catwalk, opens with a constantly repeated stroke of the highest key of the piano, a crack of light where the music gradually unfolds into swirling pulses of harmony and arpeggi. The movement is a 20-minute progression from transparency to opaqueness where pitch and rhythm is constantly fluctuating in a virtuoso moto-perpetuo. The idea of the catwalk as a constantly mediated threshold between ourselves and our idealised self-image. As darkness shrouds the end of Catwalk, we find ourselves deep in the night. Nocturnal takes us to a primordial animal-like vision of ourselves, a state prior to self-consciousness, where we only sense and feel - a state of pure instinct. Early Memory is based around one of Tomoko's recollections from her school days, her annoyance at having to wear a school uniform, and her reaction to it. She recalls constantly wanting to change small details on the clothes, just enough that the teacher would not see it, in order to distinguish herself from the other girls. The piece is in two parts; the first rhythmic and swaggering based around the gesture of a metaphorical tearing away of the uniform, the second, a more intimate reflection of the child's emergence into the self-consciousness of the adult world. Dress Code is a list and encoding into notes of over one-hundred articles of clothing. In the original production, this music accompanied the painstakingly slow undressing of all the dancers, a shedding of the external skin, which together with the music both celebrates and underlines the superfluousness of our clothing. Finally, Ito Rhumba, is a light-hearted tribute to an old ballroom dance rhythm. The material of the music is a translation of the patterns used by Toyo Ito in the design of the Taichung National Theatre, heard in the cascading piano samples of the opening of the track. It rounds off the cycle by taking the listener back to the exterior world of ostentation, artistry and the collision of cultures that is also the fashion world. la mode is a performance-installation conceived by Tomoko Mukaiyama for ten dancers, a pianist and an architectural installation. It deals with the social codes, self-expression and desire around the fashion industry. The performance will open the Metropolitan opera house in Taichung city, Taiwan, designed by Japanese architecture firm Toyo Ito + Associates.

La Mode performance


  • Concept + artistic direction: Tomoko Mukaiyama
  • Music: Yannis Kyriakides
  • Choreography: Dunja Jocic
  • Performers: Tomoko Mukaiyama (piano), Spellbound Contemporary Ballet, Sarah Murphy (dance)
  • Costumes: Slavna Martinovic
  • Set design: Toyo Ito + Associates, Architects + Yoko Ando
  • Light artist: Tanja Ruehl
  • Technical director: Yutaka Endo / LUFTZUG
  • Co-producers: Spellbound Contemporary Ballet (Italy), National Taichung Theater (Taiwan)
  • Associated co-producers: Dance New Air (Japan)
  • Partners: Transart Festival (Italy)

The European premiere of la mode is scheduled for September 8 2016 in Bolzano for the Transart Festival. The world premiere, scheduled for 1st and 2nd October, will correspond with the Official Opening of the National Taichung Theater. After the opening in Taichung, la mode will pursue its tour to Tokyo’s Dance New Air Festival and will be performed 4 times from 8 to 10 October.

La Mode graphic