In 2004, Niigata City Performing Arts Center “Ryutopia” welcomed Jo
Kanamori as art director of its dance division and subsequently established Japan’s
first full-fledged public contemporary dance company, “Noism 04.”
Ten dancers were selected for the company from nationwide applicants and are now
performing as resident dancers in Niigata. The company performed its first production,
SHIKAKU, in June and its second, “black ice” in October.
City Performing Arts Center “Ryutopia”
Opened: Oct. 1998
This culture complex built by the city of Niigata includes a concert hall (1,900
seats), a theater (900 seats) and a Noh theater (380 seats). Ryutopia is administered
by the Niigata Municipal Foundation for the Promotion of Arts and Culture as one
comprehensive facility along with the adjoining Niigata Municipal Music Culture
Center, which includes specialized music practice rooms and a performance hall.
The Center’s theater division is led by the producer Hiroshi Sasabe as art
director, with the director Yoshihiro Kurita serving as associate director. The
art director for the dance division is Jo Kanamori. The total annual budget for
the Center is about 400 million yen. The Music division has a Junior Orchestra
for young students of music which is based at the Music Culture Center and it
also operates a music school for elementary and middle school students and produces
original musicals. The Center also creates original productions to tour Japan
and has presented a Shakespeare series at its Noh theater featuring famous quest
|With Noism are
you aiming to build an European type company system?
Even within European dance companies there are several different types of systems.
I want to take the best aspects of the companies I worked in and apply them to
Noism. As my goal for these first three years, I want to see this become a company
that came proudly say three years from now that they are functioning as a professional
company in Niigata. And, I want to establish a system by then that other cities
wanting to create public dance companies can look to as a model. I don’t
know when it will be, but I also want to create a dance school. I learned a lot
when I went to study at Béjart at the age of 17, and I would like to make
some changes at the (dance) education level. In my day, you simply had to go abroad
if you wanted to make your way as a professional dancer. I would like to contribute
to create an environment in Japan where young people can practice and pursue their
What about your company’s
I don’t want this to be a company that performs only my pieces, as if my
choreography is the best. First of all, there are many masterpieces which I would
like to present in Japan. I want our dancers to experience these works and I want
the Japanese audience to see them. I am also thinking about inviting outside choreographers
to come in and do pieces for our company. In the near future I want to commission
some Japanese choreographer to do a piece for our company. There are also a lot
of very talented choreographers of my generation that I know overseas and would
like to bring to Japan someday to do works with here. I know some choreographers
that I think are doing the most vivid work today and if I could bring them to
Japan I would like to participate as a dancer myself in their works. I want to
build a repertoire of pieces that we could say were made possible because such
outside choreographers came and worked with the company Noism.
about being both a dancer and a choreographer?
I want to continue to do both, but for now I am concentrating on choreography.
I still want to dance, but when you are thinking about your own dance it becomes
enough just to think about yourself and you can become egotistical in the process.
This is not a time for egotism. This is a time when I must focus my full attention
on the dancers I have chosen and what I want us to create. I think that once Noism
has really established itself as a company my desire to perform again as a dancer
will become stronger.
What kind of dancers
do you want to nurture?
The first requirement of dancers from now on is that they be able to create movement
by themselves. This is absolutely necessary. Dance will continue to evolve very
rapidly and new concepts and subject matter will emerge one after another. So,
it is not enough to set your sights only on what is already out there on the dance
scene now. Being a professional dancer means being a dancer who is already thinking
about the newest issues before you are asked to. I think this is a consciousness
that is lacking in many Japanese dancers today. It is difficult because most of
these dancers have been brought up in a system where it is enough to do what you
are told by your teacher, and if you try something new you are liable to be scolded.
But I hope people will start to realize soon that this is not enough.
A professional dancer is one who has his or her own unique identity, one that
is not interchangeable. I want our dancers to become dancers who have a character
of their own that is strong enough to inspire a choreographer to choreography
in a way that brings out that character during the creation of a piece. This kind
of creation is a process of give and take, and the choreographer wants to receive
that kind of stimulation from the dancers. And, it is this kind of unique strength
or character for which the dancers are chosen when casting for a creative piece.
If you are going to create a piece that only contains the things you already have
within yourself, you should be doing it by yourself, solo. At the same time, I
want to give things to the dancers, too. And I believe that when you have this
kind of two-way give and take, it is the ideal situation for creation.
Connecting this to the question of repertoire, I also want our dancers to be ones
who can perform in a number of different types of dance. There are many different
ways that the body can be used in dance. When we invite outside choreographers
to come in and work with our company they may be ones who are interested in a
different type of body movement from mine. When that happens, I want our dancers
to be the type who can adjust and absorb new things from the choreographer and
receive new inspiration.