Born in 1974, Kanamori was taught from childhood by his father, Sei Kanamori.
His talent was recognized while a member of the Maki Asami Ballet Company and
he became the first Japanese dancer to study at the Maurice Béjart’s
Rudra Béjart Lausanne. Since then he has been active in Europe with companies
like the Netherlands Dance Theatre II. Returning to Japan in 2002, Kanamori produced
his first independent production in 2003, titled no•mad•ic Project,
for which he won double awards, the Performing Arts Prize of the Asahi Performing
Arts Award and the Kirin Dance Support Award. As of 2004 he assumed the post of
artistic director for the dance division of the Niigata City Performing Arts Center
This work is the product of a collaborative effort with the young architect, Tsuyoshi
Tane, the musician Masahiro Hiramoto and others. The title, when written as it
is in Roman letters can have various meanings in Japanese, ranging from a rectangle,
a visual angle, a blind spot, a poet and a writer to an assassin, qualifications,
poetic form, the sense of sight and enlightenment. This is an experimental piece
in which the stages is divided at first into four chambers by white walls. As
the dancers move in and out of the chambers, the audience is also free to walk
around the stage viewing the performance from different angles. There are also
effective special manipulations such as the partitions being raised during a blackout
of the stage lighting to produce one large, flat open space. For the duration
of the piece the dancers move ceaselessly, playing out the various meanings harbored
in the word shikaku: “There are walls and then there are none;” “Now
you see, now you don’t;” “Now it is shown, now it is not”
and “Now things can be communicated, now they can’t.”
|©Niigata City Performing Arts Center
|Jo Kanamori is now the object of more attention
than probably any other dancer and choreographer in Japan. After studying classical
ballet in Japan, he went to Europe and discovered the genre of contemporary dance
where his talent would blossom. Shortly after returning to Japan he won the Asahi
Performing Artist Award and has established himself in Japanese contemporary dance
scene as a unique talent polished in sophisticated. After being appointed artistic
director for dance by the city of Niigata, his proposal to form a full-fledged
public contemporary dance company was accepted in 2004 and its realization has
brought heightened expectations from Japan’s performing arts world.
We interviewed Jo Kanamori on September 1st during
a break in rehearsals for his production “black ice” at the Niigata
City Performing Arts Center.
(Interviewer: Yoko Shioya)
What made you decide to return to Japan?
I was beginning to feel the limits of what I could do as a member of a dance company.
The decision to free myself from affiliation with a company came partly from the
constraints I felt knowing that nothing new would begin unless I initiated it
myself and partly from the desire for the freedom to choose for myself. I had
been doing some choreography while I was a member of companies in Europe but there
were times when I couldn’t take jobs or, if I did, there would be other
constraints on my time. I found myself getting negative in that kind of system,
and I knew that wasn’t good for me.
Since I’m Japanese, I decided to give it a go in Japan. Right away I was
given a lot of chances to do my work, but I found myself having trouble with the
difference between the way Japanese and European audiences’ approach to
performance arts. In Japan, it seems that a lot of people don’t go to see
ballet, or whatever, purely as art. Rather, they go out of an interest to see
some famous performer. Be that as it may, I wanted to show my work as something
that I have confidence and experience in, and I trusted that good work would be
judged as good work. But I began to feel a gap between what I wanted to show and
how my dance was being seen. It was in the midst of such circumstances that I
got the offer from Niigata.
What are your aspirations with regard to the public dance company you have established in Niigata?
I want as many people as possible to appreciate and enjoy the fact that the new
Niigata company Noism is creating works in Niigata and sending them out to the
rest of the country. Tokyo is the important market, and if we are recognized there
our opportunities will grow, but that won’t make things any easier for us
in Niigata. There are a number of things we have to do to get our work appreciated
by the (Niigata) public.
Do you feel that there is a difference between what the public here (in Niigata) will appreciate and what is appreciated in Europe?
I naturally have confidence in my ability to express myself (in dance) in advanced
centers of dance like Tokyo and Europe. There may be times of discouragement,
but that is something that anyone involved in creative activity has to work through,
and I am confident of my ability to work through those times. Rather, what I am
telling myself now is that I must not forget Niigata.
To begin with, you have a 3-year contract as artistic director. How involved will you be in the management side?
We are planning to bring out two Noism productions a year. As artistic director
I will be responsible for other dance programs as well, but given the limitations
of budget it will be difficult to do a lot.
For me, the time I spend creating works in the studio is precious time, the time
when I am happiest. But, in order to get that time, there is a lot I have to do
outside the studio. When I decided to take on the job of artistic director, I
told the people in Niigata that I was fully aware of the responsibilities I would
have outside of creating my own new works. Now that we have created this unprecedented
public dance company, I know that there is a lot of communicating we have to do,
and I’m prepared to do it. And, I imagine that it will take about three
years to lay the necessary groundwork.
What is it like working with Japanese now?
The biggest difference since coming back to Japan is being able to work in Japanese.
Being able to use my mother tongue has given me the ability to express my thoughts
in words. In working up the choreography for a new piece, I find that my mind
functions more clearly in the process of putting together what I want to say in
a piece, and I am now able to dig deeper when putting it all in words. When I
was in Europe, I never really studied English properly. I tended to just learn
things in terms of images, and dance pieces also remained in the realm of image.
Since choreography is a process of looking into myself, now that I have begun
to think in Japanese, I believe I will continue to think out my works in Japanese
from now on, no matter who I am working with. But, that is not to say that I have
begun to have any strong ideas about anything like a Japanese identity within
myself. It is just something on the DNA level.