October 31, 2008

last night on earth. tomorrow morning I leave Matsuo and Rie’s appartment for the airport, tomorrow mornign surprisingly early for flying at 1 pm. but apparently I need quite some time to get to Ueno train station and catch a train that will take me to Narita. and then, apparently, I am supposed to be there 2 hs before my flight. and on top of that, I want to have breakfast with my hosts, my new family. so much for sleeping over. I will have to get up around 8.

today was a bit of a strange day. yesterday, also, and the past few days. and, actually, the whole last week was also a bit strange. but today I reached the emotional peak, the peak of sadness, and the peak of feeling welcome and extremely happy to be here. today I was considering to stay here, to not show up at the airport, to drop everything and start a new life in Tokyo. ha… well that’s an idea that I’ve been considering for a while, and this trip seemed like the perfect occasion – but to be honest, I didn’t consider the idea very seriously. I just felt very sad this afternoon.

at this point, I want to be back in my appartment. no matter how welcome I’ve felt in the houses of my friends I miss being in my own place. but today it seemed a bit difficult to imagine being back in Amsterdam… what will I do there? or maybe I should refrase: today it seemed a bit difficult to imagine not being in Tokyo.

and then I went out. or, first, I visited Nick and Virginia, my first hosts in Tokyo (very classical form, finishing where one started). Nick and I will do a video project together out of materials from my performance and rehearsals, and we met to exchange tapes and talk, and to say goodbye. I hadn’t seen them for a couple of weeks, but they were a very important support upon my arrival to Metoroporis. I went out, I visited Nick and Virginia, and then visited briefly the Instituto Cervantes which is a potential space for potential future performances in Tokyo. I went out and visited Nick and Virginia, and Cervantes, and then came back home (I feel a bit embarrased and a bit proud of calling Matsuo and Rie’s appartment ‘home’), and spent the afternoon chatting with Rie, listening to music and drinking tea. and then I went out once more, incredibly nervous and sad, headed for my last appointment, a social activity with the dancers from the Ochanomizu Dance Club to give some closure (a concept I need to discuss further in another post, I think) to our work together. in other words: a dinner. and so we had dinner (Japanese style once more: some eating, a lot of drinking), and then went out together. I insisted on going dancing somewhere but it didn’t work, and we ended up doing Puricura – a very popular entertainment form that consists in taking group pictures inside a booth, and then adding some digital effects, and getting some prints… and after the Puricura we visited (yes, one more time) a Karaoke place. which was fun, though I have the feeling that Karaoke is something that works better with more time and alcohol. in any case the evening was a lot of fun and I got some very nice souvenirs (including my share of the Puricura prints).

now I’m trying to write about today, and I feel like there isn’t really much to say. I just need to express my sadness, to share it, to insist on how sad my sadness is today. it’s a very simple sadness, anyways, no big deal. I went out today, and went out again, I met with many people to say goodbye, and came back and had a cup of tea with Matsuo and Rie. now I’m feeling even sadder than in the afternoon.

I lay in bed and it’s not so easy to decide to sleep. beyond all the fantastic artistic experiences and fantastic networking opportunities, the most intense thing about this trip has been the ammount of love that I’ve experienced. it’s been brutal. like Tokyo. I am overdosed, and maybe that’s why I don’t want to go to sleep. it’s definitely why I am like I’m writing today… maybe. I’ve met so many people and I’ve been given so much love here that at times is almost difficult to deal with…

I don’t know what to write anymore, I am tired, and I have to wake up early. I don’t think I will manage to give better form to this post in the coming 5 minutes. so let’s leave it here. I think there is a lot and it is very eloquent, even in its unclarity or specially in its unclarity. thank you for reading, and thanks for being around.


en el horno
October 11, 2008

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…

anticipated melancholic note
October 8, 2008

I have been thinking that I will miss Tokyo when I leave. I think I’ve fallen a bit in love with this city. true to myself, I would much rather live here than just visit… I feel a little bit sad about it, but at the same time it feels quite nice. the day I arrived here I wrote that I was doubting of my original motivations to come to Japan. but during this trip I felt very touched by this city and by the people I’ve met. or by many of them, at least, wether Japanese or not. and it doesn’t mean that in the end my expectations or desires were fulfilled or something like that… I’m actually still very unclear about what they were (my desires and expectations). the cool thing is I don’t care much about them now, if I ever did. I’m just happy to feel happy about my stay here and not to need anything else. when I arrived and I felt skeptical about my own fantasies. I guess I was scared of encountering some sort of disappointment. but  things turned out in a really positive way, so that in the end I don’t even need to wonder about that. just enjoy the sadness of missing something that I still didn’t part with.

on top of tokyo… not.
October 4, 2008

-note: this post is a mix of lines written in different days, so please forgive the emotional incoherence of the writing-

after dinner with Ernesto, a (new) friend from Uruguay/Amsterdam, and having had some conversations about economics, politics and bussiness, I ended up a bit ashamed of how ‘unpolitical’ my project in Japan became. and not because it’s not political in some manner (thank god for the always present micro-politics thing…) but because I had to admit today -in conversation and in later reflection- that a lot of my comfort and small successes here seems connected to the whole axis of inter-racial desire, fantasies and expectations… and I feel like my piece here is dealing only with a small portion of that, maybe in a very naïve manner. and maybe that is ok (today I feel much better about things), maybe it’s also my ‘manner’. I think my way of working, of relating to new people, of presenting myself, is always a bit naïve.

I have the impression sometimes that a lot of the welcoming I receive here is due to my foreigner condition, and maybe also to being white and male. and maybe that’s not so terrible. or at least it’s not my fault nor my responsibility (is it?). yesterday I was feeling that I’ve been avoiding the subject, and that my work could have been much more of a reflection about those issues: desire, race, fantasies. I feel like I escaped into working around certain exchanges and using transliterations and translations as strategies for creation. and again, yesterday I was feeling that this is a bit superficial or too simple… but today I also thought that is appropriate for this process, for the ammount of time we have to spend in rehearsal, for this being my first experience in Japan, for the fact that I also need to take care of myself and withdraw a little bit when I feel that things can get too sordid… and, also, that there is a certain depth in my creative process, even if it’s not in the coreography. and I am actually very happy about it, and I think the negotiations on the level of language, of managing energy and leading a big group are already a very rich experience. I am dealing with a group of 13 people, in a very restricted process, so I have a lot to enjoy, learn from and be proud of…

in any case, I have to accept that sometimes this trip can also get dark. yesterday I was feeling quite depressed. today I had a good day. but still, I do realise that there is a lot more to the Japanese sense of sexuality and sensuality that would be very interesting to keep looking at, or work on. no double meanings intended (well, maybe now…). I have the feeling that the many layers around those issues have a strange dynamics of exposition and hiding. I have the impression that they are very sexist. they seem quite represive on some issues, and seem to have a conservative discourse on gender. homosexuality seems like a huge taboo. at the same time, I see a brutal ammount of softcore/hardcore sex exploitation. and on top of that (please allow me to keep writing, even if it’s very speculative, unclear and rushed), a big culture of exhibitionism and voyeurism, maybe as an escape for marginalized people… but also as a commodity. there are also a lot of fetishisms publicly exposed in publicity, in fashion, in magazines and books, and in people’s urban attitudes.

this brings me to the next point, hopefully: the Japanese are so good at being capitalists. in my conversation with Ernesto (an enthusiast of capitalism), he made some really interesting comments. I think he proposed a very good insight on (an aspect of) the Japanese people. we were talking about coreography, and I mentioned that one of the issues I deal with is the fact that the dancers in my piece are not very used to open forms or improvised material. then, when our Japanese friend said that the Japanese people are very square and always need to be told what they have to do, Ernesto disagreed saying that they are very good at shifting and adjusting and evolving, even within or maybe because of very tight frames. and that’s why they are so good at bussiness, and that’s why they managed to become the 2nd biggest economy in the world in barely 30 years, after touching bottom in WW2 (and, I would add, that’s why he seems to like them so much). so I thought his image of the Japanese as actually quite flexible was very lucid and … something like bold? I found it inspiring. I hope it will help me rethink things about my rehearsals with the Japanese dancers.

and then, one more thing that this comment triggered was a scary thought. I always wonder how much our artistic tendencies and new ideas are informed by social changes, or by paradigm changes that are already very spread out socially. how much are we contemporary artists spear heads of thought, and how much are we just an illustration of what social and economic dynamics have already brought about. Ernesto’s comment also made me think that somehow all the things we praise in open forms, decision making ‘in the moment’, adaptability and versatility of performers, improvisation, etc, could be very easily seen as a reflection of the values of capitalism and of what has made capitalism so succesful. I hope I’m clear enough… somehow it was quite a sad perspective, and I think that was the main reason for my sadness yesterday. I thought, for instance, that then maybe Classical Ballet or Opera have a big political meaning because of their not being economical… or that very rigid and not dynamic styles/genres/whatever, contradict the movement principles of free market and capitalistic economy…

let me write one last paragraph (in this post) just to bring out another similar thought. I don’t have much more to say about it, but I’ve been thinking for a while about how the strategies of alternative thought of the last few decades (postmodernism?), maybe specially deconstruction, have been appropriated by capitalism. advertising and publicity, marketing, shop names, etc, sometimes seem to use deconstruction with amazing sofistication and creativity. their discourses have managed to become very ironical, humorous, sometimes very creative, and still keep serving the purpose of stimulating consumerism. so I have a similar feeling to what I was talking about before: (our) critical discourses sometimes are either too late or just futile against capitalism’s capacity for adaptation. how to fight hyperconsumerism and social inequality (and the systems of thought that rely on them) if the tools produced by alternative/critical thought can be absorved and used so quickly by capitalism?

so… thank you very much for accompanying me (if at least by allowing me to imagine that you read this), and for forgiving my inaccuracy, my unclarity, my redundance and my lack of argumental depth… this writing, this dialogue, is the way I have to try to keep thinking. no offenses meant to anyone. I do feel embarrased and exposed in here, but I trust that this exposure also has the potential to trigger some reaction and inform me and help me grow… thanks again.

again that guy...

that guy again...

kisiste con ternura y el amor te devoró de atrás
September 30, 2008

today was a bit of a Desencuentro… but I guess it was about time. rehearsals were going too well, so I guess a disfunctional session was appropriate. I had been quite patient and only today tried what was actually my first concrete idea of something that I would like to see in the performance… and it didn’t work quite well. maybe it wasn’t clear enough, or the dancers are a bit tired, or tired of me and the fact that we keep trying kind of different things in every rehearsal. I had an image of playing with very exaggerated and dramatic Sepucus – the Samurai way of commiting suicide, that some know as Hara Kiri. I wanted to see them in a line killing themselves one by one, screaming very dramatically, and accumulating noise and action until it grew to a very annoying point… but it seemed like that would require too much time to make it work well. so maybe it’s good that it happened, so I don’t get attached to my first idea and can drop it. also because I was thinking of a dynamic similar to the opening of my last piece, and maybe it will be good not to repeat that trick. maybe…

and after that I made it worst by asking them to learn and sing a piece of a song… in Spanish. well, at least it was kind of funny, and we had a laugh or two, and they were very willing. but it also seems difficult to pull of in the performance. though I would still like to use it; I hope I don’t end giving up all my desires to use their voices in the piece. Deborah Hay’s idea of the voice bringing the body across the space is still very dear to me, and the affect that it can produce (as I felt it in the last creative process) is very very exciting. so let’s hope we find a way to work on it.

finally we talked a bit about costumes. what an issue, I always feel so lame when this time comes. but I dropped some loose ideas and asked them to bring some clothes tomorrow, and we’ll see. I will ask Shiho to drop by and give an opinion also.

report on the 24th – Nishi Azabu, Roppongi, Shibuya and all of Tokyo
September 25, 2008

in the end, the project of staying in different people’s houses turned out to be much more than a practical economical thing. in spite of how annoying and time consuming it is to move houses (carrying my 20kg+ luggage with a broken handle – oh, yes, of course the handle broke up the moment I set foot on my first stairs in Tokyo), moving around has given me a nice peep into how different the different neighbourhoods of Tokyo are. maybe the fact that they call them ‘towns’ is not completely a translation mistake.

until tomorrow I’m staying in Nishi Azabu, close to Roppongi, something like not only a big financial center of Tokyo but at the same time the hippest and poshest area of the city. or something like that. I’m crashing the couch of Samir, my very relaxed and friendly moroccan-french host. then I will move to Matsuo’s place, though I’m not sure where it is.

the picture I posted yesterday, the night view of Tokyo, was taken from the rooftop of the Roppingi Hills Mori Tower, a 5 or 6 years old building in the very center of the city. I would guess that it is probably the tallest building in Tokyo, and it’s a kind of big complex with a lot of big companies and banks, the most expensive hotel in Tokyo (I think) and a very fancy shopping center at the base. in the 53rd floor you can find the Mori Art Museum, which I visited thanks to an invitation Yurie gave me, and from there you can climb to the very top, the roof, where you are ‘looked after’ by around 15 security people and allowed to walk around the heli-port and take pictures. you are also allowed to be taken a picture in a special spot, with the city scape as a background. I wonder now what happens when a helicopter needs to land there…

but ironies apart, the view is quite impressive. suddendly you can experience the vastness of this city. all at once. one of my friends was saying today that maybe the Japanese attention to detail is a way to escape the horrifying immensity around them… I thought it sounded quite poetic and beautiful, but that it can only apply to great-Tokyo dwellers. she also mentioned that some people relate the high rates of short-sightedness (literaly, the physical condition) of young people here might be related to the fact that all perspectives are quite close – it is difficult to find a visual sensation of horizon in Tokyo. and I thought this also sounds quite interesting, though it contradicts all my observations about the big spaces in Tokyo. but she’s the urbanist, and I’m only me…