la ultima curda

October 17, 2008 - Leave a Response

this is the end, my friend. or, like my Japanese friends would say: finito. today we had the last rehearsal. it went very well, I really enjoyed the work of the dancers… in the last 2 or 3 rehearsals somehow their listening and playfulness got really hightened, and the coreography became so much richer. more nuanced…

before and even during the rehearsal, I was wondering about what to work on and how much was it worth it to push things. as in other processes, being so close to the performance time I wonder how much more I can build up in this last rehearsal, and what are the risks of bringing in new information or exhausting the performers’ bodies and attention just before the performance day… but they made it easier for me by working really well, so I felt confident to bring in some small adjustments that -I hope- make the piece better. the focus in these last rehersals was somehow quite musical, working on the sounds they produce, their voice, counting and singing (yes, the one before singing was counting). and without really planning it, that work seems to have triggered their timing in a very nice way.

tomorrow we have a 15 minutes rehearsal (I think I already mentioned it, the rehearsal is officialy scheduled from 13.54 to 14.09), and then a dress rehearsal (10′ piece), and then the performance. it doesn’t sound like much, but they will actually be rehearsing also the other 12 coreographies, so for them it will be quite busy during the 5 hours previous to performance. so I am also trying to come up with a way to use my 15 minutes rehearsal in an efficient way that, besides helping practice the performance of the coreography, can be energizing, motivating, exciting, fun and soothing…

oh, and as a colourful note, today was the 2nd time (or maybe 3rd) that all 13 dancers were present in rehearsal. quite an event, I have to say…


freakyng out in the frigging streets of Tokyo

October 17, 2008 - Leave a Response

yesterday (wednesday 15/10) I participated in an improvisation performance. I was in contact with Risa Takita, an improviser that has spent some time in Amsterdam and seems quite internationalized (she was performing in London 2 weeks ago, working in Vienna in July, visiting Amsterdam in June…). so she wrote to me last week saying she was back in town, and asking me if I would like to do an impro with her and 2 musicians. I said yes, but I will also bring someone – and I invited Shiho to perform with us, because she has been very involved (and helpful and supportive!) with my work here, but in the end we didn’t really get to work together (in the beginning we had been talking about teaching together).

we met in Harajuku, a strange spot where Very Posh and Very Freaky come together. seriously, this is a very fancy neighbourhood full of very expensive brand shops, and at the same time, the hanging area (specially Takeshita Dori street) for young people in costumes and highly elaborated clothing (like the GothuLolies – Gothic Lolitas… to post a picture would be nice, but I think the best about GothuLolies is their denomination, specially with the ambiguous L/R pronounciation of Japanese people). so, we met there, in Harajuku (this place, where Posh and Freaky…), and we… went for a coffee. but the coffee place was full, so just bought some coffees to take away, and stood in the ‘location’ not-having a conversation… so, actually, in the beginning, it was a bit awkward. the musicians (a voice artist and a shakuhachi -Japanese traditional wind instrument- player) were very close with Risa, but didn’t seem to speak much english. and no one seemed very interested in a common warm up, or in superfluous decisions like wether we would dance (sorry, I meant perform) for 30′ or 4 hours…

but somehow, while (quite individually) warming up and setting up instruments, I started running behind Risa and around the musicians, and then she started dancing, and he started blowing his Shakuhachi, and one thing led to the next, and we had started. and I was pretty happy about that. there were a dozen friends of us watching, and then passers by who would stop shortly and not so shortly. the police showed up about 3 or 4 times (apparently is not allowed in Tokyo to do those kind of performances), but they never really interrupted us or even try to talk. I timidly followed the path of the two bicycle-policemen that passed through the stage (sorry, I meant performing area), but made sure I didn’t offend these armed people who speak a language I don’t understand.

things went on, like in any impro performance… I think it was quite ok. I felt like we worked very coherently with the music all troughout, which made it a very moody and kind of contemplative performance. actually, very slow for a while. but I was having fun with the spacing and the openness of that place (a big terrace/bridge overlooking an open train station under street level), and with trying to connect with Risa and Shiho and the musicians over these big distances. all in all I regretted not having warmed up more together including the musicians, because I feel like that made us all more shy and a bit reluctant to really break things appart and challenge each other more… but I also enjoyed a lot of my own space/movement/eye research, and specially Risa’s playfulness. I was also very happy to have had a (tiny) contact warm up with Shiho, who remained quite shy during the performance. I would have liked to see her move and play more, and I hope we will perform together again.

so… not much more to say. just that I seriously like the public space as a space for performance and research. I should start rehearsing in parks. if only Amsterdam’s weather was a bit better…


October 17, 2008 - Leave a Response

empanadas. small meat pies. pasties. something like that though, of course, is not really about translating it. is about giving the recipe. empanadas are a typical dish from Argentina, and for us gaijin (foreigners), food is a typical conversation topic in Japan. so after being asked many times about Argentinian food, and mentioning – no, more than mentioning, after explaining empanadas several times, I decided to make them. so on tuesday, the day I spent completely at home (except for a short visit to the supermarket), Rie helped me and we prepared a dozen empanadas, small pies of a kind of puff dough, and typically with a filling of meat, onions, raisins, egg, olives and spices. so, we cooked a dozen of them, amassed the dough ourselves (while, in Argentina, the typical thing is to buy the individually packed dough discs in the supermarket), forgot the boiled eggs, forgot the onion, put a lot of paprika in them, and then tried to cook them oven-style but without an oven. or, even worst, with a very small oven intended for fish. this taught us that having them one centimeter away from the fire cooking them only from above can only lead to bad results. half way through we argued about it, but we ended up following Rie’s idea of moving them to the Microwave oven, that has a kind of oven function. I was a bit skeptical since that oven also cooks only from above and 3 days ago it cooked my (also typically argentinian) sponge cake in a very weird way…


conclusion: in spite of their looks, the empanadas were ok, taste was nice. but many things could have been better. hopefully I’ve learned for next time. the funniest thing about cooking this very very very very very typical Argentinian dish (which I used to eat maybe once or twice a week) is that I chose Tokyo (and an internet recipe + some improvisation) for cooking empanadas for the first time in my life.


October 15, 2008 - Leave a Response

today I tried a little bit more around the idea of my ‘Japanyze’ side-dish – that is, a small semi-spontaneous side project I do during this trip. with ‘Japanyze’ I’m just wondering about the racial aspect of my fascination with Japan, and I’m wondering about desires of racial exchange, of being someone else, or something else… I heard once about make up products designed to make Japanese women look like they have bigger, more open eyes (which is, apparently, one of the cannons of beauty here – hence the eyes of the Manga and Anime drawings, for instance). so I thought, why not me? why not do the same but inverted? so I started tryng to tape my eyes, practice a misplaced temporary lifting, pulling the skin from my temples to make my eyes look like Japanese eyes… somehow.

a few times, now, I’ve tried to do it. today I found a better technique to hold it. and I checked also how it looks with yellow tape. I think the colour of the tape can also be an extra layer of reference. I also want to try it with white tape. maybe do a series of fotos… I would like to do a bit more of a performance with it, but I still doubt and wonder, and fear it might be offensive for someone. 

I had a nice conversation with Matsuo, in the meantime. we both drunk coffee while I was trying out the tape thing, and we had a cool talk about my idea and the potential reactions… I mentioned going out in the street like that, and also that I would like to go to a game center and do some pictures with taped eyes in a Puricura booth (a ‘game’ where you take some pictures and add some quick preset glittery effects and then get a few prints in small formats, for your wallet and your friends’… apparently popular amongst groups of people going out… hey, I even did it once we were out for dinner in Yokohama). and we talked about the posibility of people feeling offended, about a history of Japan being submitted to American racism, and about Japanese racism – while Japanese people might be offended by my gesture of pulling my eyes back, apparently old Japanese people use the same gesture to refer to Koreans and Chinese. we talked a bit about the Japan Bashing period, and about Japan’s incredible economic reconstruction after WWII. I brought in some unclear reference to Takayuki Tatsumi’s theory of ‘Creative Masochism’ and Matsuo agreed on my friend Ernesto’s comments (check a few posts ago) on the Japanese people being very adaptible.

so, while having this very interesting conversation, I had the space for two very important things: to keep thinking how to frame this idea (this image?) in an effective way, and to observe Matsuo’s response to my little performance. because, for the first 4 or 5 minutes, I was still using the tape and talking to him with pulled eyes – with Japanese eyes… I don’t know what he would say if he reads this in the blog (maybe he will tell me soon?), but I felt he wasn’t very comfortable. that’s why I took it off soon, but I think it was a great starting point for the conversation… maybe that is a nice format… maybe it can be a starting point for conversations… and going back a little bit: it seems quite important to find some layer that makes the little performance easier to bear, or to engage with, somehow to make sure it doesn’t seem like an offense. I think it could be quite funny, and that it should be clear that is not about mocking Japanese people but about making fun of my own desires and fantasies. that is what the framing, the form, needs to be about… some kind of balance between triggering something a bit visceral, and building up a friendly space to share, maybe by exposing oneself (the performer) to ridicule. this is an idea I’ve been working with when I was teaching, and sometimes in rehearsals, as a way to relax a bit the atmosphere and encourage some shamelesness from the other dancers… I think I have been very succesful at making myself look like a real idiot, but I am actually quite proud of it. I have to think about Robert (Steijn)’s teachings (I hope, Robert, you won’t take me wrong – I’m just trying to acknowledge influences).

so, to finish, I’m doubting wether to place a picture here or not. but I think it’s nicer to leave it to your imagination. in any case, I will probably show up with pictures or video or a performances at sime point.

caught once more in the maelstrom of contradiction

October 14, 2008 - Leave a Response

over the weekend I had an e-mail exchange with one of the dancers from my piece. she mentioned having read my blog (this blog), and she seemed to be a bit upset and offended by what I wrote. by something I wrote. so I started re-reading the last few posts, trying to understand what had I said so bad about them, and though I couldn’t find anything, I felt really really bad about it.

since our communication is quite fragile due to the afore-mentioned (many-wheres in this blog) language barrier, and since our process is kind of short, and our cultures quite different, and our working experiences very dissimilar (just to mention a few of the parameters determining this process), it is important for me to build as quickly as possible a working relationship as strong as possible. and when I thought that she (and others) might feel offended or hurt by my writing, I panicked. saturday night I was feeling awful. so I wrote her an e-mail, trying to explain a lot of things about the process and why there are no reasons for her (or the other dancers) to feel attacked by what I write in the blog. this e-mail I copied into the blog a couple of posts ago. I thought apologizing ‘publicly’ was a good way to atone for whatever I might have said, and I also thought that what I had written for her was a nice synospsis of reflections around the process and our relationship. in the end, I think now, it wasn’t as bad as I thought, and things seem to be ok. is all well what ends well… or is all well what was never bad…

but then, getting to what I wanted to write about in this post, the interesting thing for me is the place of misunderstandings in this chain of events. because I thought that there might have been some misunderstandings in reading the blog, but then my friend suggested that I was misunderstanding the dancer’s e-mail, and that she might not understand my new e-mail very well (because it was a little bit… profuse, to say something, and probably very redundant)… and I found myself wishing we would understand each other clearly and well, and questioning my whole discourse about how creative and interesting misunderstandings can be. but I think now that I was panicking, and emotional (I was also very tired on saturday, after teaching and having had a very intense week), and it was easy to loose my faith.

today I believe again that misunderstandings are quite cool. and that this correspondence helped me write and think a little bit extra… so there is the creative potential, right? wow, and now this episode actually ends up endorsing the ‘thesis’ of the coreography, ha… amazing.

the end is coming

October 14, 2008 - Leave a Response

today we had another showing at the University. that is, the members of the Dance Club performed a pre-general run, showing all the pieces to more of the sempai (coaches), to the technicians, to one of the teachers and, most important, to the director of the department. the atmosphere was a little bit tense… I have to admit that I was also very nervous. though I met the director (professor Izaki) the day I was teaching my workshop, we never talked much about the work, and all my contact and organization has been through Shiho and the dancers. today was the first time she was seeing my work.

and I got specially stressed when, deciding to say something for the first time during the whole run, the director called Shiho (Shiho sempai) to ask her some things and make some comments in Japanese – after that, it took me a while to be able to concentrate again in watching the rest of the run and writing down some feedback. I couldn’t stop trying to guess what they talked about…

but all in all, the run was good. I like the way my piece is going – it’s kind of fragile, but probably that’s its best value. though it works fairly well, the structure could be a bit better. and the dancers have been taking a lot more initiatives and decisions in the last rehearsals. I feel like they start to appropriate the piece, and that is great. there are still some lacks in the group listening, somehow, but already the performance is much more nuanced and rich.

plus, I got some simple but very valuable feedback today. I may be, at times, too focused on achieving a certain thing (or getting rid of a certain habit), and then I miss the fact that my requests to the performers provoke some unclarity… that seems to be the case with the eye focus, for instance, and the two teachers from the University mentioned it today. I’m happy they said so, and have to think a little bit about how to be efficient in working on that. I only have one rehearsal left, and it’s the evening before the performance. I have a few things that I would like to clean up (some cueing and spacing), and I also want to just run the coreography to keep practicing the performance of it… mainly, to keep practicing how to make it more musical.

for me it’s an interesting aspect fom this process to try to keep working on things, but at the same time trying to build up the performers. I feel that they are not so used to work on their performativity (maybe they have been taught that there is only one way of performing), and sometimes I feel like I have to be very cautious with my comments on that level. I don’t want to discourage anyone, but help them feel more fully that they can dance with every little part of their bodies and every little part of the piece, even if it’s just walking or looking at the space.


October 14, 2008 - Leave a Response

today I watched a Yabusame exhibition, or something like that. it’s an annual celebration they perform on this holiday (because today was a national holiday: the Health and Sports Day – really). and Yabusame is: horseback archery. or horseback riding archery… don’t know how to say. people riding horses and shooting arrows. very cool…

and though I was a bit disappointed with the fact that the rating of hitting the target was very low (the game is: each rider rides his horse alongside three wooden targets he has to shoot at, within the same run), it was still exciting to see. the parade, the people’s reaction (though a bit timid), reminded me of the folklore festivals I used to go to in Argentina, and of my uncle’s parading as a Gaucho, and all that stuff. it also reminded me of how much I used to love* these images of warriors, and medievalic chivalrous fantastic knightly adventurous stories… it also made me want to ride a horse again, something I didn’t do in the last 10 years or so…

today, I was thinking a lot about my brother, and wishing we would have been there together.

* writing ‘I used to love’ is just a way to pretend that I don’t anymore…


October 12, 2008 - Leave a Response

I feel very bad, and very embarrased… so I will copy this e-mail also in the blog to expose my embarrasment…
right now I am dancing my embarrasment and shame in the internet
I hope that serves as an apology.

dear dancers,

I’m happy that (some of) you read my blog, and I’m sorry if it gave you a bad impression… please don’t take it wrong. it is very natural and part of a creative process that some rehearsals are great and some are not very good. it is a very normal thing. it is our work, we are creating something new, all the time. I don’t want to conform with something that I already know, and this means there are some risks. things can result in different ways, and that is what makes it exciting.

I am very happy to be working with all of you, and I am very thankful for your cooperation. I think the group is very commited and hard working. I also know you have a lot of things to do, and I just try to do my work: that is, to make in the rehearsals we have, the best possible coreography. I think the dancers I am working with are great.

also, I write in this blog because it’s a way to help me think about things. and because it is also a challenge for me to open up, and try to share my thoughts and feelings. sometimes I feel embarrased about what I say in the blog, and for me it is like putting myself in a similar situation to the dancers. when you perform the coreography you are very exposed and I ask you to not let these feelings block you. and I try to do the same: I try to write and share my thoughts, without holding back. like in rehearsals: I try to tell you what I think, even if I sound very stupid. the blog also makes me feel a bit ashamed sometimes (also because I change my opinion every day!) but I don’t mean anything bad… when I write, it’s a tool for documenting what I’m thinking during this trip. sometimes I try to write in a funny way, just to make it nicer to read. I (try to) use a lot of ironies so please don’t take things in the blog too seriously…

our dance piece has been growing and developing a lot. like I said when we first met, I think a process like this needs more time. but it is also great to work together, I like to do it, even if we don’t have so much time… maybe I am not very good at working with this time…

I also think the piece was, maybe, too long. but I think now it’s better. the last two rehearsals (thursday and friday this week) were very productive. in any case, thank you very much for your comments: I love to hear them, and I would like to hear even more. and also during the rehearsals, please discuss more with me. let’s fight a bit more. I think we will make a better coreography together that way.

I believe that all of this is (our emails, trying to have fun, making some jokes, writing in the blog) is also part of our coreography…

one more thing that I already said in the blog: how the piece looks in the end is not the most important thing for me. I want to have fun with the performance, and want the audience to have fun. in fact, I want the audience to love the coreography, and to stand and clap and yell “Bravo!” and ask me to do more coreographies and to come back to Japan many times… of course I want all that. but the most important for me is this process we are having. my favourite thing of making a coreography are the rehearsals, spending time together, trying to find the best ideas. I am learning a lot and I love the challenge of not speaking the same language. we just find a way to communicate… I think it works, and that all that effort creates something beautiful… I think it creates a very unique coreography.

I still feel bad! I hope you get all my apologies and realise that I didn’t mean to say anything bad.

I know that next time there will be a very tense atmosphere. I hope I knew how to help you all feel better and more calm… I would like to see you have more fun in the run, not only because it’s nice, but because it also makes the performances much better.

I think the audience will enjoy our piece. I think they will like to see how the same dancers can dance pieces that are very different – the way I ask you to perform my piece (this is what I call ‘presence’ or ‘performativity’) is very different from the usual modern dance. and I think is great that the audience can see in the other pieces some of your skills, and in my coreography, your other skills: the intelligence of your bodies, your sensitivity, your capacity to create instantly new things by making decisions about space, by playing the coreography like a game…

one last last thing, to finish this very long e-mail:

Mr. Pablo-chan


October 12, 2008 - Leave a Response

today I taught the first of my two classes at ArchiTanz studio. it was fun, I had a group of 8 people, and we were dealing once more with the fact that I speak a lot, sometimes a bit fast, and that not everyone understands a lot of english. but I insisted on not having someone from the group translate for the others, and I think it was worth it. I think the translation makes it very difficult (for me) to keep managing the dynamics of the class, and that in any case it will probably not communicate a lot of things that (hopefully) I communicate beyond my words.

so far one of the most striking things from this trip is how much I am starting to understand what did have an important influence for me in the last few years. in the effort to put together a class, and to direct the big group of dancers from the project with the Dance Club, I’ve started noticing which kind of works and classes have been very influential for me. (I think) I can see now what stayed with me, and what didn’t change me much. I am noticing how important all the movement ideology of Zambrano’s class is for me – though my excercises are very different from his, when I talk I realise how dear it is for me his understanding of the body-movement-energy feedback. and also his idea of continuity in the movement (not to mention his tools of thinking one foot after another, curves and spirals, and using your hands to avoid killing people in fast relational movement excercises).

more and more I embrace the ideology of not saving my energy for later, of doing and keep myself doing, not only as a way to spend my energy but as a way to generate new energy! it’s almost paradoxical, or like a perfect thermic machine… but somehow it does work. and yes, I always end up very tired… but in the meantime, it can be amazing – in terms of feeling, in terms of opening possibilities. in the couple of classes I taught so far I’ve tried to have some sections based on this continuity: around 45′ or 50′ of moving without stopping, going through different movement tasks while walking and running and dancing without breaks.

also, after the showings of last week, I’ve been giving some feedback about the other coreographies. I think that besides being unclear with my feedback, I was pedantic and lame. and I felt embarrased about it, giving very strange comments mainly about performativity, use of the eyes and timing. but I allowed myself to keep at it, because I think it also served me as a tool for reflection, to show me more of my own movement ideology. and here I’ve been noticing also how present are Deborah Hay and Katie Duck in how I’m thinking about the work in rehearsal. this is not very clear, or easy to put in words, but both of them have been somehow proposing to make ordinary a full engagement with the dance, in every rehearsal. Katie says rehearsals are just improvisations. in Deborah Hay’s (beautiful) words: the rehearsal is a practice of the performance of the coreography.

just before teaching the classes I feel very nervous (like, sometimes, just before the rehearsals). but once we begin I relax and start to enjoy. and I come to terms with the idea of teaching (I set aside all my insecurities) when I realise that it is actually a fantastic opportunity for myself to keep learning.

en el horno

October 11, 2008 - Leave a Response

last rehearsal today. or, actually, not really the last rehearsal, but the only one we have left is the night before the performance (only in one week from now!), so I don’t think I will pressure the dancers with more changes or additions to the coreography… in any case, today it was fairly good, in spite of having 3 absent dancers, starting almost 15 minutes late, and getting a new frustration in talking about costumes. also the energy was a bit low, but I think they are tired and I didn’t manage so well to keep a good nice exciting atmosphere there today… and still, as I said, it was fairly good. surprisingly they took even a bit more freedom than the things I proposed (maybe it was a misunderstanding?), and it was great to see them take much more care of the timing and of the nuances in sound and space. I think the structure got a bit better now, and they are also taking more responsibility. that’s very nice to see.

and then, I am just very scared of how it can go with no rehearsing in so many days, and with the overload of dancing so many pieces. it’s nice to see them, and I think the fact that my coreography is quite different from the others (and that it resorts to a very different performativity) could make the whole evening much more exciting and rich, but I fear that it might just blurr and mess things up.

(he stops writing, lays back in his chair, and reflects for a moment – short pause)

I was just thinking that, just like me throughout this trip, also the group has better days and worst days. I just remembered how tiredness also fucks up your language capabilities, and your brain slows down. maybe today they were more tired than usual. I was thinking this after going over my feeling of guilt – the guilt about my lack of clarity (which is enlarged by the language issue, and by the fact that I speak a lot). today I felt very responsible for the low group energy. I remembered Katie Duck’s ‘directing’ workshop, and I did try to turn things around – shift the space – start again – change focus – do something. it did get things better, and it’s not like I don’t notice, but sometimes it’s also tiring for myself and difficult to pick up again. I was also tired today.

at times I think that what gets me most frustrated is not the results of how the piece works, but the fact that sometimes it doesn’t manage to engage the dancers fully. and though I Think the responsibility should not be only mine, I do feel very sad when it doesn’t work so well… I like rehearsing. on some level, I think I still like more rehearsing than performing. maybe I know what I feel: I want my rehearsals to be a very exciting experience for the people involved…