maybe I already wrote about it in the blog?
November 1, 2008

I take the opportunity to note that Japan did strike me like quite a sexist place. like everywhere else, women and the female image are totally exploited for publicity and stimulation of consummerism. just the style might be different (they might look cute). and then both men and women seem quite used to the ideas that: men are priority, have to be served first, and housekeeping is basically a women’s affair. I hope this doesn’t sound too simplistic… I was really shocked by those codes, and I feel that Japanese people are really conditioned for it. I felt sometimes very uncomfortable.

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motto capitalism
November 1, 2008

picking up from those comments on sexism, in the end almost everything takes me back to thinking about the logic, vices and (most recently and most problematicly) the merits of capitalism.

somehow Japan as a nation managed to overcome with enormous success a very hardcore situation. I’m not an expert on the subject, but it seems obvious that Japan’s evolution from 1945 to the present (or even just from WWII to the 1970’s) is admirable. and what’s interesting for me to think about (and super problematic) is the strategies and social models that were resorted to.

surely the social structure in post-war Japan can’t be disconnected from it’s previous social structure, but I have the feeling that the Social was very seriously engineered for economic growth. and yes, it sounds awful, it looks quite bad, but at the same time, the living standards in Japan seem far better than in many other places. so, I’m not proposing anything… I’m not trying to advocate for rigid social structures, or a moral of individual sacrifice. I just want to say that it does seem to be part of quite a big picture, and that when I think about it it makes me reconsider a bit, and it makes it more complex and difficult to criticize a system like that. that is what I meant before when I mentioned capitalism’s merits.

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.

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...