October 18, 2008

now we are done. really. the performance is gone, finished, finito. so much adrenaline and anticipation for 10 minutes of dance (sorry, I meant movement)! but it was cool, I enjoyed the performance very much. we had a long day at the theater, with short times for spacing and light cues check, and with a dress rehearsal just before the actual performance. but it was fun, nice energy in the group and -I think- a nice audience for Japanese standards (though I may be completely wrong…). people were clapping less than I expected, but at the same time a lot of them clapped to the music in the (coreographed and musicalized) bow. I had my moment of public embarrasment when they called my name and I had to bow from the audience, and then everyone was happy. almost everyone, I think. some people where not so excited about my work, but that is expectable, natural and fine. other people liked it quite a bit, and specially the people from the University seemed quite positive, both the dancers and the teachers. we also had visitors from the Argentinian Embassy, the Cultural Aggregate (so the Japanese audience had the luxury of having 2 Argentinian Pablos in the same room at the same time!), and two Japanese secretaries who were very sweet in their Argentinian accented Spanish.

my coreography was quite nicely performed, I think. as usual, just the presence of the audience already makes all your flaws evident to yourself. the structure had it’s dips of energy, and moments where it was very difficult to have a nice (structural) timing. I also realized only today how much the piece was rehearsed for a small space like the studio, where I was never too far from them. specially using the voice would have needed a lot more practicing in a space that big. but a very beautiful surprise (I am very sorry to say that I didn’t plan it in advance) is that the movement and structures, and a lot of the spacing, worked very well for those distances and perspective (the 300 seats audience was higher than the stage, like in a flat floor theater or auditorium). it was nice to have an overview of the evolutions in space and group relations.

all in all, I am very happy with this experience. it was a great process of negotiations, finding communicative strategies for the rehearsals and constantly measuring the status of the process. this last issue of calculating progress in every rehearsal, being avaricious with time, is not something I want to carry on to my next projects, but it was an interesting training. maybe it’s good if it can become a subconscious skill, or an intuitive practice, instead of a neurosis of sorts.

also, I have been busy discussing with myself how much physical involvement do I need to have in rehearsals. I love to move with the performers, and it helps me to think, but it also keeps me away from watching, and that is sometimes a loss… but this is always a kind of dialectic of my rehearsals, and the thing is in this process it got very hightened because sometimes moving with the performers seemed like the only way to communicate some things. so, happily, I did not arrive to any conclusion, but it’s been good to have such a simple and serious question so present every time.

in this trip I’ve been enjoying also the concentration of being here mostly only for that project. yes, I had time to walk the city, do some sightseeing or other experiences, but my attention was very focused in the piece, and that was a very beautiful feeling. and though I don’t wish to always be somewhere where I don’t really live, for once (for one process) it was a cool feeling. or… I don’t know. maybe I can anyways dedicate all that mental energy to a project, because I do feel like that was more or less the case with the previous coreography. maybe I’m changing. maybe I’m learning how to be more focused… let’s hope so.

then after the performance we had a nice dinner, in the Japanese terms that I described many posts ago: a little bit of food, a lot of drinking. I was surprised at myself (about the drinking, I mean), to be honest. it was great, I had some cool conversations and finally got to socialize more with the dancers. I thought that it was very stupid of me not to have organized something like that (though more modest) before – next process I think the first task has to be: go out for a drink together. such a rich experience. we talked also about the pieces and that led to exchanging what we find interesting to see in performances… once more I found myself speaking pretentiously and posing a little bit, and once more I didn’t repress it because it showed me some of my own opinions on things. and also because I am starting to feel very comfortable with abusing the word dance in my professional vocabulary, trying not to fear that it might sound dull or lame, and trying not to let it become one very specific reduced idea. it’s fun… oh, and before I forget: we also discussed Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and (my beloved) Jackie Chan, masters of timing and movement…

well… I do feel a little bit empty and sad now, about leaving Tokyo and about not rehearsing anymore. I will miss the dancers and the studio. and I will miss this city.

hmm. I think I want more…


freakyng out in the frigging streets of Tokyo
October 17, 2008

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 15, 2008

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.

officially launched
October 9, 2008

impro imperf
October 9, 2008

today I participated in an open improvisation performance. the rules were: 5 minutes, and improvised. and so I did. it was a good cozy thing to be again in a space like that, we all did our stuff and then had a feedback round, so it made me feel a bit at home – well, except for the fact that all the feedback was in Japanese. but Chico Katsube, one of the organizers of the Contact Impro Festival in Tokyo (and organizers of the Intensive Contact Impro week this week, the frame for this open performance), did some translation for me, and then I also talked a bit with some people.

I felt a bit lame, somehow, not really in all my powers. I was happy to dance, because I feel like I’m not doing it much here (funny, eh?), and I had a lot of nice dancing energy. but I think that maybe it was too much, and I felt like I couldn’t manage my timing so well. I improvised mainly around some spatial ideas of which I’ve been talking a lot in my rehearsals and in the class I taught, and I felt a bit tried (self-tried), with the pressure to do it very good. at least for myself. and though I believe being a good performer is not a condition sine qua non for being a good coreographer, I do feel sometimes in rehearsal that I should be able to demonstrate things. but maybe not…

run run dry dry run
October 8, 2008

yesterday we had the showing, a kind of dry run for the sound and light technicians, and for three coaches (sempai) to watch and give feedback. then there were Matsuo, who wanted to see my run, and me. we didn’t get a table as tall as the other observers, and we didn’t get the sheets with all the information of the pieces, but it was ok. we also didn’t get the special individualized martial salute that the other 5 got, but that was also ok.

so we watched the run of the 13 short pieces (some are as short as 2’ 30”!), and in the end were asked to give a little bit of feedback to each of the makers. the whole event was interesting and I couldn’t stop making comparisons between this showing and the dry-runs at the SNDO. to start with, the around 20 or more dancers stood in four lines in front of us, and greeted each person with a loud formal phrase (I don’t know what they said) after one of them introduced each of the people that were watching the run (except Matsuo and me). it almost freaked me out a little bit… and then for showing the pieces it also seemed like it’s very codified how they indicate the beginnings and endings of the pieces, and the whole mechanics of speaking briefly (and rushing, of course) with the technicians while the next group prepares. but in the end, after it was formally concluded, suddendly it got reversed and they were all coming to us (the coaches, and Matsuo and me) almost demanding feedback. somehow, with the politeness a bit overthrown, the room picked up a very nice energy. I found it very funny.

and then, the run itself: it was very Modern dance, and somehow very Japanese. after noticing a certain expressionism and a certain cartoonesque absurdity coming back in several pieces I couldn’t stop thinking that these Japanese dancers grew up watching a lot of… Japanese cartoons. which actually felt quite beautiful and imaginative, and humorous – and it kind of made up for the modern dance things. or, actually, no, it didn’t. maybe it just made the modern dance look even less creative… in any case, some of the pieces were actually very well crafted and nice, even if it wasn’t very much my taste.

and then: the run of my piece. it was a bit awful, I have to say… dear dancers, if you are reading this, please don’t take it personal. but I felt that quite a few things that worked better in rehearsals were a bit lost in the run. it even felt better during the run we did half an hour before the showing. but I think the whole atmosphere was a bit tense (not only in my piece) and that spacing and specially timing got a bit abandoned. and, of course, some serious structural problems became also evident in the showing. it keeps amazing me how you just need to have someone standing next to you and watching with you to see, yourself, things in a different way, and to notice how bad some of your work is. so, conclusions are: the piece needs to be a bit more compact and it needs a lot more nuance and dynamic variations. some of  it should come out of the improvisation, but I also think I need to bring some more complexity to the structure. a few cues here and there, and maybe some extra new elements – as simple as possible, because we don’t really have time to bring in new elements, but I’m thinking of very simple variations of things we already do. in any case, I remain positive and I seriously look forward to the coming rehearsals (x3). it is also exciting to rehearse when you feel like you know exactly what you need to work on – no ponderings, no hesitations, just practice. so, let’s see… 3 more rehearsals to go, 13 dancers (minus someone missing every time), a structure that is almost complete, a movement quality that needs not get lost, some improvisation that needs a bit of work… I think it’s enough to keep us entertained until the performance day.

Yokohama – where Boca played last year the final of the Toyota Cup against Milan
October 6, 2008

yesterday we visited Yokohama, and saw a theater performance of an Argentinian director and crew, performed by japanese actors. the proposition was interesting, but I got kind of dissapointed by the realisation. the whole piece, a series of simultaneous scenes that started again and got repeated several times along a small shopping street in Yokohama, felt very static and distant for me. each scene had subtitles projected on top, showing either an ‘off-voice’ narrator or the thoughts of the performers. the stories, which I could read on the hand program, sounded too twisted for such short texts. And then, the acting was awful. and I’m not criticizing the actors… I think they were not really directed, or that there was no special performativity demanded from them. it was very difficult to engage with the acting, which I think made the performance feel superficial: a lay out with some potential but that soon became very conventional. so, very minimal stories and no action, but very crooked stories, acted in a very conventional and silly way. that summarizes somehow my impression of the piece.

and then: I have to say in their defense that it was very strongly based on written text (constant subtitles and no speaking), and the subtitling was all in Japanese, so I probably missed the best of it. Matsuo said he actually found the text/translation very good.

another thing that was very interesting was the mix of audience and not audience people who were having dinner in the restaurants, or walking down the street. there were many layers of observation-exposition-voyeurism, and all those kind of issues. for example, it felt very exciting when people from inside the restaurant started taking pictures (through the window) of the people observing the performance happening on the sidewalk, that maybe the diners couldn’t see… but I also felt that the whole voyeurism and the simultaneity aspect of the different scenes were not developed, so the scenes felt too arbitrary – I missed some intertwining (after it came to my mind, how could I refuse using such a word?).