Monday, June 13, 2016

Working together is difficult and fun

What does it mean to make a so-called "contemporary dance" piece in the "Tokyo context"? In Tokyo there are many theatergoers who like that kind of dance as well as many artists who create that kind of pieces. This city is big, so I cannot summarize how the "Tokyo dance scene" works. While in Brussels everyone seems to know everyone, in Tokyo no one seems to care about what the others are doing. Many things - the audiences' expectation, subsidy, education, competition, etc. - work differently than in Europe.

Dancing in front of audiences has been what I have hesitated to do since 2006, let alone making a dance piece. Although there are many dance people here, I haven't been around with them, except that I took Nancy Stark Smith's workshop a couple of years ago and Violeta Luna's recently. Instead, I've been around with more politically active people especially since the 2011 earthquake and nuclear disaster. Many of them are among those whom philosopher Angela McRobbie might call "indie micro subcultural entrepreneurs," active often in Koenji district and its DIY ethos. We have been developing a sense of collectiveness since then. With them, I've been playing music and facilitating a small dance workshops. In order for us to work together, it was more important to share certain political views - anti-war, anti-racism, anti-capitalism (or, at least anti-neoliberalism), supporting LGBT rights, etc.- than to share an artistic style.

Last year my colleagues and I created a 30 minute-long piece entitled Unknown Knowns and presented it to about 30 audiences at a privately owned cafe. The work period was 6 months, although it was impossible for us to work every day. Every weekend we used some privately owned rehearsal studios, paying nearly 20 USD per hour. We worked mostly four hours a day and then had a long discussion at a nearby Chinese restaurant.

The audiences responded positively to our performance. Although it was a modest step, we had a sense of achievement. Developing ideas collectively is difficult, and fun.