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Performing Arts Network Japan
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Artist Interview
Inside the mind of Shigehiro Ide, a unique talent of the contemporary dance world

LIVE FIVE - Anmoku no Ryokai Part 2
(2002)   ©days

Les Liaisons Deluxes (2004)   ©days

Take A Roundabout Way, Pls (2005)
©days
There was another big change seen in the work Unspoken Agreement you performed with Diversions in Britain (Jan. 2002) where there was a feeling that you had discarded any type of storyline or meaning and focused purely on “dancing.” How was it that you came to work with Diversions?
Diversions is a resident dance company in Wales, and they have long had a policy of calling in outside choreographers to do works for their repertoire. It seems that at a time when Diversion was looking for a choreographer, they happened to see a video of Discord at the booth of Japan’s Saison Foundation at some performing arts market. They thought it was interesting and I was asked at first if I would like to dance in Wales. When I sent a reply that I was working as a choreographer, not a dancer, I got an invitation from the producer saying that I was welcome either as a choreographer or a dancer. That decided it.
A choreographed a work for them that I titled Anmoku no Ryokai (tacit understanding) but the English title became Unspoken Agreement and I didn’t quite get a clear feeling from it. At that time I decided that I had to do a production of the work in Japan. I don’t know why but I have this thing about titles. When I create a work, I always have a title in mind before I begin. For example, when I see a word like chochin that is written in the Japanese hiragana syllabary characters, those characters seem to be moving to me. I am Japanese down to the core, but I like undulations and the nuances and shapes of written characters seem to me to take on an aspect of motion. I also like resonance. It’s not like I get inebriated on them though (laughs). Anyway, in April of 2002 I did a production titled “IDEVIAN LIVE FIVE - Anmoku no Ryokai Part 2” (Tokyo, Morishita Studio).

In Wales you were choreographing for people of a completely different life environment, but I felt that contrasts and integration of the solo and duo, and group dancing went extremely well. I felt that you were playing very close attention to the composition of the flow of time and space and the variations in the entrances and departures of the dancers and how they were positioned on the stage.
I am often told that. There are some details to which I pay a lot of attention, but in general don’t worry about minute detail. The choreographing itself goes quite quickly. Often it comes together right away. First of all, I set the basic composition, and then I start to add detail changes. Often I will add a mix of various modifications later on.
At the time I was working with Diversion, I was also doing choreographing for theater and I was used to working with actors on their movements. So, it actually required a lot of courage on my part to be working with professional dancers like the Diversion people. These are people who have been dancing since they were children and they really work hard. They are always moving and sometimes you just have to tell them to take a rest or they won’t stop. Also they had a tendency to try to make “dance” out of everything I choreographed for them. Naturally, they weren’t used to the kind of movement I choreograph, so everything becomes dance-like. I hated that, so every day was a battle for me. An interpreter was only available about once a week, so the rest of the time I had to do my best to communicate with a dictionary in one hand.
In Wales, I first did a one-week workshop in May 2001, and then I went back again from December into January. In December I had them show me their interpretation of what I had choreographed and after that it was a process of breaking down what they had done. The basic composition of the work had been completed in about two weeks.
In the end I think it came together as a fairly appealing work. But, I prefer movement where the dancer’s center of gravity is kept lower, something like Noh movement but perhaps not to that extreme. In contrast, Western dancers tend to want to keep the hips higher and center of gravity up. I don’t feel comfortable with that kind of movement. For better or worse, everything they do naturally becomes “dancy” in my eyes. I felt that they didn’t have a knack for the smaller movements I wanted. That is probably a matter of environment to a large degree, but they seem to be used to larger movements that look almost like over-action in my eyes. So it was hard for me to communicate the kind of minimal movement I wanted.
I am often attracted to the everyday “gestures” or the “habitual movements” people have and I find choreography in those movements. But, small gestures that Japanese audiences appreciate, for example, don’t get a response in other countries. On the other hand, I find that I can work in places like Britain and Germany by asking what kinds of gestures or movements people use in specific situations and then find ones that are similar to the ones we use in Japan.
Speaking of gestures, I have always loved watching people since I was a child. Partly because there were a lot of women in our household, there were always people coming and going. So, for some reason, there were always a lot of people around. I have always liked just sitting alone and watching. And, when I watch people, I begin to see their [habitual] movements. Like spirits in the background. Don’t you get the feeling sometimes?
So, even with people I am meeting for the first time, I can put together images of what movements are interesting with a particular person. In my dance school days I was the class representative and I got used to directing large groups of people. At the time I was responsible for organizing the activities of about 150 young women.

When I saw Les Liaisons Deluxes, I got the feeling that you were boldly attempting things that you hadn’t been able to do with Diversions. In short, you used a very Japanese theme and the movement was also very detailed and theatrical in a Japanese way I thought those elements were also very well matched with the Bach harpsichord concerto music you used. It was also interesting how you created a sense of instability by using a slanted stage floor.
That came from a desire I had for some time to lay the linoleum floor on a slant. And, previous to that work I had done a workshop at YCAM in Yamaguchi where I choreographed a piece for that kind of slanted stage for a group of participants from the general public with the purpose of having them give a dance performance. From that time, I had the desire to do a more concentrated version of the same thing for a formal IDEVIAN Crew production.
I had already decided on the title Les Liaisons Deluxes and I believed that some Baroque music like harpsichord would make it especially strong. That was the first time that I had ever used that much Baroque music. There is something subtle and byzantine about harpsichord music. My favorite is Bach’s Concerto for Four Harpsichords (in A Minor), but the more I studied the music the more I felt that the music gets stronger when the number of harpsichords is reduced to three and then two.
I composed this piece to begin with small movements within a triangular space and then expand outward from there. And I thought that it would be funny if everyone were like the family members in the Japanese cartoon Sazae-san. So I had the costumes look a little old-fashioned and created the atmosphere of what might be a typical port town household where there is a Western style chandelier but it is still a Japanese house with tatami flooring. I wanted it to have the feeling a salaried worker’s family with interests that leaned more toward Europe than the U.S. I thought it would be more interesting if the father had an image that was not quite the perfect father, so I used the actor Arata Saeki instead of a dancer.

The miss-match between the gorgeous chandelier hanging out of place above the unexceptional family was effective. In contrast, your 2005 work Take A Roundabout Way, Pls was a very unique composition. I am sure that you had a clear concept for the work in your mind, but it was hard for me to see.
A concept? I’m sorry but I don’t know if there was one at all (laughs). Speaking in specific terms, I had heard that they were going to close the Park Tower Hall, so I thought I would do something had long wanted to do: a work using a long, narrow stage. In this work, the dancers in boy/girl scout type costumes move back and forth along this one lateral line of stage. At first I was thinking of having them all dresses as policewomen. Then we could use the “take a detour (roundabout way), please” phrase naturally.
But, then I thought that would make it too obvious, and then I got the idea to use scout uniforms from the Girl Scout house near where I live. So, we made these uniforms with a red stripe in them, and when we got them on stage and the lighting turned red, they took on a military look. That was something I hadn’t anticipated, but other people also said they saw war imagery in it. When I describe it like this, it does sound a little bit like a concept (laughs).

Outside the dance field, you have done a lot of collaborations with theater people, haven’t you?
To tell the truth, I do theater choreography without knowing the specifics of the story. I intentionally avoid reading the script, because if I do I find it difficult to choreograph. I just start with a general feeling for the atmosphere and what has happened up until the start of the dance section. I don’t want it to stand out as a separate piece inserted in the middle of the play. I want it to feel natural. And to make sure that doesn’t stand out as something of a different nature, I use lots of everyday movements. I think of things that will blend in well with the flow of the play.

2005 marks the 10th year that you have been working as the IDEVIAN Crew.
Yes. In recent years I have not been dancing in my own works, but to commemorate the 10th anniversary, I said that I would begin dancing in them again, beginning with Take A Roundabout Way, Pls. I also did idésolo in answer to a 3-year-old request to do a solo work. The career method I have followed until recently has been to concentrate on choreographing a variety of different works rather than dancing myself, but I wanted to make 2005 a different year. But, this doesn’t mean that I am going to continue to dance like I did last year.
As for idésolo, I decided that since it was a solo, I didn’t have to do much thinking for the work. My approach was sort of like showing myself just as I am, like a guinea pig, and if people enjoyed coming to see that, that was good enough for me. I guess I wasn’t thinking very deeply in terms of a specific theme like I do with IDEVIAN Crew productions.

What plans do you have for the future?
In September 2006, I am choreographing a new work for IDEVIAN Crew. We will perform at the Setagata Public Theatre. I am looking forward to it.
I also want very much to do some serious studying again. It may sound strange, but I have the desire to be bound to something, like a student bound to the requirements of a course. I am wondering if there isn’t someplace overseas where I could go to study, not as a dancer but as a choreographer. When I was younger I used to go off to Europe with just one backpack but I haven’t been able to do that since I started working with IDEVIAN crew and choreographing for theater. For example, I’d like to go to Hawaii and study hula dancing. Hula dancing actually has a sort of masculine and violent strength of movement. I want to study the kinds of spiritual dances where every word and movement has meaning, like something danced before the gods. Or, maybe it is just that I want to get away from Japan for a while …
 
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