|Looking at your works as a whole, there is something more than the rawness you present. I feel that rather there is strength coming from certain kind of transparency to the composition. Do you think about things like that when you are composing a work?
I have a very strong feeling when I am working that I have to get rid of everything that is not necessary when bringing the work to the stage. So I always apply a process of weeding out what is no essential. I basically like the process of composing a piece. I like thinking about how to strip down the pictures that come flowing out of my mind to the vital essentials and how to bring them together in a form that feels right.
I believe that the fact that you like composing your pieces gives them a special density and fullness. Because even if a person has images as clear and powerful as yours, that isn’t enough to make them artists. It is this process of refining down to essentials and giving the work as much transparency as possible.
I don’t really know, but think what I am doing gives the audience a feeling of nostalgia to some degree. Maybe you could say that I am really only doing things that every human being should be familiar with. We may forget these things in our daily lives, but I believe that the things I am doing are things that everyone has somewhere deep in their guts. It is not only the nitty-gritty but things that make us realize, “Yes, that does seem to be true,” things that awaken feelings of nostalgia. I don’t really have much of a desire to do things that are completely new.
About the work Last Pie that was performed this July, this was the first work that you did on commission. What’s more, you choreographed it for Noism05 headed by Jo Kanamori, who is probably the most looked-up-to and accomplished dancer and choreographer on the Japanese scene today.
I was really worried and uncertain this time. I didn’t know if I could do it successfully. Everything was new about it. It was the first time I had choreography for anyone other than BATIK, it was the first time choreographing for men and the first time using live music. I have never spent so much time preparing for a production. When I first joined the practice sessions the choreography was already finished. I had never gone into practices like that before where everything is already decided. I spent more time on that work than any other until now.
For this work I first created a solo piece for myself named Monica Monica Monica. The part that Jo Kanamori danced this time was exactly the same as that solo piece of mine. I did the choreography for Jo after I had created that piece. So, the working notes for Last Pie and Monica Monica Monica are exactly the same.
—Not choosing, not getting involved, not returning, not being allowed, not ending, not knowing, but still so happy that one can’t stop, it just seems like the body is going to fall apart—
When I think about being alive, I didn’t ask to be born as Ikuyo Kuroda, so it was not a matter of “choosing.” If you think of involvement with people to the point where you can say “You and I are the same,” I am hardly “involved” with people in that way. Cutting off time as I described it earlier is not easy, so we can’t “return” to time past. Our time in this world is limited so we are not “allowed” to use time unlimitedly, and since we can’t end our allotted time by ourselves, we can’t “end” things. So you might say that we are living in a state where we don’t really “know” anything in the end. In spite of this all there is a feeling deep in my guts that I am happy to be alive, happy to dance; there is something in this gut that just wants to dance so much. So I get so happy and I dance so much that this body feels like it is going to fall apart. That’s all there is to it (laughs).
So, I choreographed for Jo [Kanamori] just as I, Ikuyo, feel things, and I don’t know if he got the same feeling of boundless joy when he danced it. It was a complete unknown. But I felt that Jo would be able to sense the not, not, nots of “not choosing, not getting involved, not returning”…
In other words, we are alone, are we? There are other people around us but there is no real communication with others, but they still exist …
Not ending, not returning … we never returns to the same point. Still there is always this feeling deep down inside that dancing and living are a joy—it isn’t that you don’t stop because you can’t stop, but that you don’t stop because it is such a joy. Placing Jo in the situation of “I’m not going to stop dancing!” If I were going to do that, besides doing it as a solo myself, I thought I would have Jo do it in a way that only Jo Kanamori could.
Jo is probably repeating four or five times a long piece of choreography of about 10 minutes, but he reacted like “Really? Do you really want me to do it like that?” He said to me, “I have known a few choreographers who push dancers to the limits but I never knew one who pushed you to the limits without appearing to do so.” (Laughs)
Finally let me ask you this. You don’t have many works yet as a choreographer but all the works you have presented in the last three or four years have won prize after prize and brought a lot of attention to you. How do you see your position right now and what do you want to do from now on?
This may not answer your question about my position right now, but there are definitely some things that I want to change and some things that I don’t. The part I don’t want to change is to be doing what I am doing because I want to. I want things to stay that way forever. I hear things like, “What can I do?” or “What are people expecting of me now?” but I want to always have things that I can say in a positive sense, “This is what I want to do.”
And, after I did Hana wa Nagarete, Toki wa Katamaru I came back to SHOKU and did another production of it at the end of last year because there are a lot of things in me that have changed the way I perceive dance, the way how I approach it. Until now it has been a process of grasping one core and then pursuing that core single-mindedly and I didn’t need anything more. Now I have the feeling that if I dance I can become dance itself, I want to become dance. I will be happy if I can do this and do it well, in a way that feels right.
For example, do you feel happier about being able to dance than you ten years ago?
Yes I feel very strongly that is the direction I am moving in. Looking back over the past three years I think I have been dancing intensely and with joy. Of course I was dancing because I wanted to, but that was the other side of the coin. But I feel that if I threw it up now it would land with the front up. It may be an ideal that is seldom realized but I want to live the kind of life where I feel grateful at the end of each day.